Sunil Gavaskar lauds All England Tennis Club for funds to players

The decision of the All England Tennis Club to give away funds to the likely participants in their cancelled tournament has to be applauded loudly and lustily.

Strawberries from Wimbledon supplier Hugh Lowe farms are handed out as a thank you to NHS key workers during the coronavirus pandemic in London.   -  AFP

If things were normal then in the month of July, all tennis fans would have been glued to their TV sets, watching the All England Tennis Championships, more popularly known as Wimbledon. The British being master influencers have managed to convince most of its erstwhile colonies that everything British is the best.

So, the tennis event is the best in the world as also the British Open golf and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and, of course, Lord's is still the home of cricket according to the Brits even though the actual home has moved thousands of miles east of England.

Be that as it may, the decision of the All England Tennis Club to give away funds to the likely participants in their cancelled tournament has to be applauded loudly and lustily. With Covid still being with us, sport in general has been badly affected and so the association had to cancel this year’s tournament. The committee had, for the last decade or so, taking insurance for the tournament being cancelled because of a pandemic, something which no other committee anywhere else in the sporting world had the foresight to do. They were also paying a hefty premium of around £2 million annually to the insurance company.

READ| Gavaskar: Chandrasekhar, Prasanna, Venkataraghavan played cricket for love of it

That forethought has paid off handsomely as the Association now gets more than £100 million from the insurers for the cancelled tournament this year. That’s brilliant as the Brits like to exclaim. What makes it shine even more is the decision of the committee to share part of this with the players who were likely to play in the tournament. This is classy, beyond belief and it takes a real beating heart for the sport and its practitioners to do so. The next time the tournament happens the players must insist that the entire committee members come on to the Centre Court on Day One of the tournament and receive a standing ovation for this magnificent, magnanimous gesture.

A one-off benefit amount was handed over to former India internationals and also to widows of players who had passed away ahead of the IPL final between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on May 27, 2012.   -  S. R. Raghunathan

 

The tournament begins with the defending men’s champion playing on Centre Court and that would be a perfect way for the players to express their thanks. The amount might be small change for some of the top players in the world but it’s the thought that matters and to know that there are administrators who actually think about the players is most heartening. There are very few such administrators in the world of sport and may their tribe increase.

Indian cricket has been blessed with some very fine administrators who loved the sport with a passion and also some who used the sport for their own personal promotion and gain. The success of the Indian Premier League brought in incredible money into Indian cricket and the current players are certainly benefiting from it with retainers and increase in match fees, but it takes a big heart to think of the past players whose efforts have sustained cricket in the eyes of the fans over the years, the rewards of which are being reaped by those playing today. Sharad Pawar initiated the move to not only give a one-off benefit amount to the players who had played for India earlier but also a monthly pension for the widows of players who had passed away. After being stalled for some years, N. Srinivasan gave it the push, teeth and muscle needed to get it off the ground and that one-off benefit as well as the monthly pension has made the players who played for a pittance and simply the honour and pride of playing for their country feel that those years of their youth were well spent. The monthly pension scheme filtered down under N. Srinivasan not just for those who played for India but even to the Ranji players of each association and for that the cricketing fraternity will be forever grateful.

The All England Tennis Club committee deserves to be lauded for thinking about the playing community when just about every other committee is asking the players to take a cut in their playing fees. They have, like Sharad Pawar and N. Srinivasan, set a template which hopefully will be followed by others.

Or is that simply wishful thinking?

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