Wimbledon, which sits perilously close to the British prime minister’s best-case forecast for a flattening out of coronavirus within 12 weeks, is highly unlikely to start on June 29th, if at all this summer.

“With such uncertainty about, changing big, long-term contracts and setting mutually acceptable new dates is difficult and complicated, as can be seen from what has been happening with the Olympics,” said an insider with long experience of negotiating international TV sporting deals on Wednesday. “For that reason, I’d say the chances of Wimbledon going ahead in June are slim to zero. You go with it now or you call it off.”

He said the same strategic thinking underpinned the decision this week by the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Tokyo Olympics. They originally announced they would decide within four weeks; ultimately, the call was forced on them within 24 hours. The new date for the Games, said the source, would be determined by an international sporting calendar that is set in stone – except, of course, when disrupted by something as unexpected and life-threatening as a global health crisis.

“It is a matter of finding a window,” he said, “and there aren’t many of those for big sporting events. American TV, to a large extent, determines when a lot of these events can take place. It is not just about the tennis schedule. There is NFL, college sport, baseball, golf and, to a much lesser extent there, [ice] hockey, soccer and tennis.”

Against this background, and the quickening spread of Covid-19 – in reaction to which Roger Federer has donated one million Swiss francs to vulnerable families in Switzerland – there would seem to be dwindling belief within the All England Club that Wimbledon will escape postponement or even cancellation, as has been the case with practically every other sport.



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