The Lawn Tennis Association has been fined $1m (£820,000) by the ATP for its ban on Russian and Belarusian players. It is also understood that the LTA has been threatened with expulsion from the Tour if it repeats the ban imposed this year due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russians and Belarusians were controversially prevented from competing at the LTA’s five ATP events: Queen’s Club, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley.
The All England Club also banned them from playing at Wimbledon, which was subsequently stripped of its ranking points by the ATP and the WTA. The WTA had also issued a $1m fine ($750,000 to the LTA and $250,000 to the AELTC) which Britain’s governing body of tennis has appealed against.
The LTA said it is considering its response to the latest sanction and accused the ATP of a “lack of empathy” over the situation in Ukraine. A statement read: “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.”
In a statement, the culture secretary, Michelle Donelan, added: “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 the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, took a different view on Wednesday, criticising the British government for “interfering” over the participation of Russian players at Wimbledon.
“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,” Bach said. “On the other hand we had Wimbledon, the British government interfering and forcing the Wimbledon organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian players.”
Bach added: “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.”