London — British tennis chiefs said Wednesday they were “disappointed” at being fined $1 million by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for banning Russian and Belarusian players from its events.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban.
The LTA stages five events — Queen’s Club in London, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley — in the calendar of the ATP, which runs the men’s professional tennis tour outside of the four Grand Slams.
Russian and Belarusian players were barred from all five tournaments.
The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, also barred them from competing at this year’s edition of tennis’ oldest Slam.
Both the ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points in protest at a ban labelled “crazy” by Novak Djokovic.
The Women’s Tennis Association had also previously issued a fine of $1 million to British tennis authorities, split between $750,000 to the LTA and $250,000 to the All England Club.
It is also understood the LTA has been threatened with expulsion from the ATP Tour if it repeats the ban.
The LTA, responding Wednesday to the latest sanction, accused the ATP of a “lack of empathy” over the situation in Ukraine, saying in a statement: “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 statement said the fines would have a financial impact on the LTA’s ability to “develop and host” tennis in Britain.
It added: “We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA’s decision and sanction.”
Michelle Donelan, the British government’s Culture Secretary, also urged the ATP and WTA to reconsider their punishments.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Speaking after an executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, IOC president Thomas Bach also took aim at the British government for politicising participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
Despite ice hockey players from the two countries playing in the NHL, Bach said, “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.”
Bach accused the British government, and others, of going against the Olympic Charter — guarantor of the IOC’s political neutrality.
“To take a decision, a political decision, on a sports competition is clearly not in line with these resolutions and with these commitments and is not in line with the mission of international sports,” he said.