Russian and Belarusian players will be allowed to compete at Wimbledon this summer as long as they sign a declaration of neutrality before doing so.
The move represents a U-turn on last year’s blanket ban on players from the two countries playing in any events in the UK on account of the illegal invasion of Ukraine.
That caused the professional tours to react by stripping British events of their ranking points, fining British tennis a total of $2m (£1.6m) and threatening the organisers with expulsion from the pro game.
A repeat of such measures would have led to the cancellation of events like Queen’s and Eastbourne this year and in the future, leaving British tennis with little choice but to row back on its ban.
“We continue to condemn totally Russia’s illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine,” Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club (AELTC), said.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted.
“It is our view that, considering all factors, these are the most appropriate arrangements for The Championships for this year. We are thankful for the Government’s support as we and our fellow tennis stakeholder bodies have navigated this complex matter and agreed on conditions we believe are workable.
“If circumstances change materially between now and the commencement of The Championships, we will consider and respond accordingly.”
The AELTC confirmed that the option of neutrality declarations was not considered “viable” last year, but that they have worked together with the UK Government and other tennis bodies to write the declaration and create “workable measures for their implementation”. The neutrality declarations will be enforced by the tours at each event.
i also understands that the scenes at the Australian Open in January, where Vladimir Putin supporters held a mini-rally outside Rod Laver Arena, waving Russian flags, filming videos and singing the Russian president’s name, sent shockwaves through British tennis – and organisers are determined that such scenes are not repeated.
As a result the LTA, who run the grass-court tournaments leading up to Wimbledon, have clarified that there will be a “zero-tolerance approach to any flags, symbols or other actions which support Russia, Belarus or the war from anyone in our venues, including players and spectators”.