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June 30, 2006

Wimbledon declares itself football-free zone

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June 30, 2006

LONDON: Wimbledon has declared itself a football-free zone and will not allow their Henman Hill giant television screen to show England’s World Cup clash with Portugal in case it upsets the players.

England’s quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday kicks off at 1500 GMT, but tennis fans who had hoped to watch both sports from the hill outside Court One will be left disappointed.

A spokesperson for the Club said that the competitors might be put off their game by the sound of England fans roaring on their team.

“There will be a lot of people on Henman Hill and it would be very distracting for the players to have all the cheering in the background,” she said.

Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Club, said in a statement that the decision had both the players’ and the fans’ interests at heart.

“While we fully appreciate and understand that many of our visitors will be interested in the World Cup, their safety and the tennis must remain our first priorities,” said Ritchie.

“As with the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, and the Euro 2000 and 2004 Championships, it is therefore not our intention to show football matches on the large screen TV. We shall try to let people know the scores of the matches via the general information system,” she revealed.

England football fan James Prior, who was watching Maria Sharapova defeat Ashley Harkleroad on the big screen here on Thursday, said he understood the thinking behind the decision — but felt the club should screen some highlights if David Beckham and his teammates overcame the Portuguese.

“I think it’s fair enough as I think it would distract the players on Court One,” said the 20-year-old, sporting an England football shirt.

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