The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) have been fined $1million (£820,000) by the ATP for banning Russian and Belarusian players from their tournaments.
It is also understood that the LTA have been threatened with expulsion from the Tour if it decides to enforce the ban again after the nationalities were banned from Wimbledon, Queen’s Club, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley this year. As a result Wimbledon was stripped of its ranking points by the ATP and WTA with the WTA also issuing a $1million fine but this has been appealed against.
An LTA statement said “The LTA is deeply disappointed with this outcome. The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government’s response to that invasion. The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules – with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced. The financial impact of both this fine and the WTA’s fine will have a material impact on the LTA’s ability to develop and host tennis in this country. For example, we had intended to host a number of ATP Challenger level events to give more opportunities to lower-ranked players in the first quarter of 2023 and will now not be able to do this, particularly given the possibility of further fines. We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA’s decision and sanction.”
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said “Over the past year, the vast majority of the international sporting community have stood shoulder to shoulder in condemning Putin’s unprovoked and barbaric actions in Ukraine. The UK has taken a world-leading role to build this international response. We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimise this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries. Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result. This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”
However, IOC President Thomas Bach criticised the UK Government saying “We had the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the US Open in tennis. We have Russian athletes participating in the NHL. They are cheered upon by the fans, everybody happy. On the other hand we had Wimbledon, the British government interfering and forcing the Wimbledon organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian players. Governments should not decide on political grounds who is participating in which sports events. The qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits and not on political interference.”