Wimbledon chief responds to Gary Neville and Andy Burnham 'elitist' dig

Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton insists the grass-court Grand Slam event is ‘for everyone’ after criticism from former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham over capacity at this year’s Championships.

While phase four of the unlocking of Great Britain – initially penciled in for June 21 – was pushed back four weeks on Monday, the All England Club will be permitted to host full capacity Centre Court crowds for finals weekend.

Prior to the final weekend, the tournament will operate at 50% capacity, with Wimbledon signing up to the government’s Event Research Programme, which involves stricter testing measures.

Fans will have to show they have been fully vaccinated at least two weeks before the event or produce evidence of a negative lateral flow test within 48 hours of arrival.

The news has been met with positivity from tennis fans but some were more scathing when reports emerged that Wimbledon would benefit from improved Covid measures to other aspects of life.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Burnham tweeted: ‘One rule for tennis, another for everyone else.’  

‘We are really pleased to be playing a part in that. I don’t think that has got anything to do with class. That has got to do with testing of events. And it is likely that there are a number of other events that will be announced in the coming days that will also be part of that third stage event research programme.’

Wimbledon, while being a hugely popular and successful sporting event, has faced criticism in the past for being an ‘elitist’ operation – a characterisation Bolton doesn’t agree with.

‘I’m not sure that is necessarily a universal view,’ she replied when asked if it was an issue that Wimbledon is viewed as an exclusive and upper class event.

‘Our view is very clearly that Wimbledon is for everyone. We want the tournament to be for everyone, we want anybody interacting with the club, whether they’re a member, the guest of a member, someone coming along to take a trip around the museum or attend The Championships, to experience a welcoming environment in which they feel entirely welcome.

‘So I don’t recognise us as an elitist organisation. But clearly people can have their own view.’

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