Apparently both Wimbledon & The Open had insurance policies with infectious disease clauses
While many professional sporting events around the world have decided to postpone the events to a later date due to the COVID-19 shutdown, two of the world’s most famous sporting events, Wimbledon and The British Open, have canceled their events outright. According to reports in various media sources, the two events both decided to cancel, rather than postpone the dates, in part due to the event cancellation policies they had purchased, both of which included clauses for infectious diseases. As a result, both sporting events chose to cancel rather than postpone their annual competitions in order to comply with those provisions.
It will be the first time since 1945, during World War II, that both Wimbledon and The Open will not be played.
Estimates for Wimbledon’s payout is almost $200 million
After an emergency board meeting, Wimbledon’s governing body, the Main Board of The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), announced on April 1st, 2020, that it would be canceled, rather than postponing, the 134th Championships, citing the significant risk and uncertainty that would be entailed in trying to hold the event on another date. In making the announcement Ian Hewitt, AELTC Chairman, commented:
“This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen. It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond. Our thoughts are with all those who have been and continue to be affected by these unprecedented times.”
According to reports in both The Times and Daily Mail, after the SARS public health crisis in 2003, the AELTC’s Risk and Finances Subcommittee was adamant that Wimbledon’s insurance policy including a pandemic provision. A source quoted in the report estimated that as a result of including pandemic insurance, Wimbledon’s insurance costs over the past 17 years were likely in the ‘low seven figures’, with some reports putting the number at $2 million.
Many may now consider this sum well worth the price as the payout for the policy is expected to be over £141 million (over $177 million). The annual Grand Slam event typically generates over £250 million ($356 million) in revenue, thereby greatly reducing any potential losses it would have suffered without such coverage.
In comparison, the same Daily Mail article noted that the French Open announced that it was considering postponing the event until September 20th, which was quickly followed by criticisms of the complicated nature of organizing and coordinating the date on another date. The French Tennis Federation’s finance chief Lionel Maltese who was quoted in the article noted, however, that not holding the French Open at all would result in sustained losses of approximately €260m ($284 million).
The 149th Open also cancels for the first time since 1945
In a similar fashion, Golf Digest also reported that the Royal & Ancient (R&A) has canceled, rather than postpone, the 149th edition of The Open in part due to the very comprehensive insurance policy the event had. Unlike the other major golf events of the year like the Masters and PGA Championships which have said they may postpone their competitions to a later date, sources cited in the article state that the R&A also had a policy against a global pandemic and was “…the most insured of all the tournaments.”
In a statement on its website, Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A said in part:
“There are many different considerations that go into organizing a major sporting event of this scale. We rely on the support of the emergency services, local authorities and a range of other organizations to stage the Championship and it would be unreasonable to place any additional demands on them when they have far more urgent priorities to deal with. In recent weeks we have been working closely with those organizations as well as Royal St George’s, St Andrews Links Trust and the other golf bodies to resolve the remaining external factors and have done so as soon as we possibly could. We are grateful to all of them for their assistance and co-operation throughout this process.
The Open had been scheduled to begin on July 16th at the Royal St. George’s Golf Club in England. On April 6th, the R&A announced on its website, the 149th Open will be played at Royal St. George’s from 11-18 July 2021, while the 150th Open will be played at St. Andrews from 10-17 July 2022.
Similar to Wimbledon, the last time The Open was canceled was due to World War II in 1945.