Concern that the jewels of the British sporting summer will be threatened by the Covid-19 virus is increasing, with heightened uncertainty over Wimbledon and the Open at Royal St George’s.
Wimbledon is still planning to stage the championships from 29 June to 12 July unless the government’s emergency planning means otherwise. However, it is understood the All England Club, which has been contingency planning since January, has a growing realisation the unprecedented situation with the virus could scupper its summer centrepiece.
While a decision is not expected until next month, training for ballboys and ballgirls has been put on hold, in line with government advice. It is also acknowledged there is almost no wriggle room to move it to later in the calendar – unlike the French Open, which has now been controversially rescheduled for September.
Even if the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed until next year, insiders are playing down the chances of Wimbledon being rescheduled in August given the nights will be drawing in and the continuing uncertainty over the pandemic.
Golf’s ruling body, the R&A, says it will be undertaking “a comprehensive evaluation” of its plans to stage the Open from 16-19 July and the Women’s British Open at Royal Troon from 20-23 August, although for now it is keeping to the scheduled dates in the hope that both tournaments will go ahead.
“We recognise that this is a rapidly changing situation and we will keep everyone informed of any changes to our plans,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive. “Our absolute priority is to ensure the safety of players, fans, officials, staff and all involved in our championships. These are difficult times but we are bearing in mind our responsibility for what’s right for golf and most importantly for society.”
On Thursday the FIA called off the Dutch, Spanish and Monaco grands prix because of the coronavirus crisis. The first seven races of the season have now been postponed.