Michael Pavitt

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has had a fine second week of Wimbledon, despite no matches being played at the Grand Slam event this year.

In ordinary circumstances we would have probably spent most of the day watching, in all likelihood, Novak Djokovic scuttling from one side of centre court to another to return a seemingly unreturnable shot.

While there have been no dramatic tie-breaks, Hawk-Eye challenges or Pat Cash style climbs to the player’s box this year, the AELTC announced this week that there will still be prize money.

The announcement came following consultation over their insurance cover for the cancellation of the tournament, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When Wimbledon’s insurance policy was revealed earlier this year, the AELTC were viewed as incredibly shrewd compared to other organisers with their finances protected against the possibility of an unfortunate cancellation.

The benefits of securing a reported £114 million ($142 million/€127 million) payout have been made clear in recent days.

Under the distribution plan outlined by Wimbledon, the 620 players, whose world ranking would have enabled them to gain entry into Wimbledon by direct acceptance into the main draw or through qualifying, will receive prize money from the event.

The AELTC announced prize money will be awarded to players despite the tournament's cancellation this year ©Getty Images
The AELTC announced prize money will be awarded to players despite the tournament's cancellation this year ©Getty Images

The AELTC confirmed 224 players who would have competed in qualifying will each receive £12,500 ($15,700/€13,960), while the 256 players who would have competed in the singles main draw will each receive £25,000 ($31,550/€27,920).

The 120 players who would have competed in the doubles main draw will each get £6,250 ($7,880/€6,980).

It was also confirmed that the 16 players who should have contested the wheelchair events will each earn £6,000 ($7,570/€6,700), with four quad wheelchair players receiving £5,000 ($6,300/€5,580).

Clearly, we would have preferred to see the players going head-to-head on the court for the titles and the prize money associated.

This was highlighted by outgoing AELTC chief executive Richard Lewis making the somewhat obvious statement that "we cancelled because we had to cancel", stressing that it was not a choice organisers wanted to make.

Yet the cancellation has shown how a tournament can help to protect its main stakeholders, predominantly the players and officials, with the latter also set to benefit from payments.

The prize money will undoubtedly be a help to the players lower down the world rankings, whose appearances in the early rounds of Grand Slam tournaments are viewed as key to their continued presence on the tennis tours at the best of times.

With the pandemic leading to the sport shutting down for months, the financial boost will be even more key.

While the distribution of prize money is likely to have been part of the insurance policy, Wimbledon’s distribution will likely earn them greater affection from players.

Nick Kyrgios was among the players to respond to the AELTC’s announcement, with the Australian tweeting "Thank you, an amazing gesture. You will always be our favourite tournament."

“Amazing news - always a class act and leader of our sport. Well done @Wimbledon - can’t wait to be back next year," said Kim Clijsters, four-time major winner.

Given that the prize money is unlikely to be crucial for the players at the very top of the game, I wonder whether some players could opt to forgo their share of the pool to help others in need.

Whether that will be to aid players lower down in the rankings or make another charitable gesture, as so many have done in recent months.

It could well lead to a further batch of positive headlines following the AELTC’s initial announcement.

The payments are among the latest initiatives by the AELTC following the cancellation of this year’s Wimbledon, with the organisation having established a £1.2 million ($1.5 million/€1.3 million) coronavirus fund to support charities tackling the crisis response and recovery.

The AELTC has prepared hot meals to help vulnerable people during the pandemic ©AELTC/Bob Martin
The AELTC has prepared hot meals to help vulnerable people during the pandemic ©AELTC/Bob Martin

The AELTC has confirmed over recent weeks the donations of strawberries, towels and balls intended for the event and the distribution of daily hot meals to those in need in the local community.

While helping the local community, the announcements have been able to keep the tournament in the public consciousness and earned goodwill during the two weeks it would have been held.

Other organisations have not been so fortunate, with criticism having been thrown at organisers of the French and particularly US Open.

It is understandable that both the French and US Open organisers need the events to take place due to the potential loss of revenues, but it has left them in a challenging position.

Concerns continue to linger as to whether it will be wise for the competitions to take place with the fallout from positive tests at the Adria Tour organised by Novak Djokovic and All-Team America Cup tournament serving as potential warnings.

Clearly players and fans would love to see the events take place, but organisers would surely love to have the kind of cover the AELTC have benefited from.