LONDON (Reuters) - Wimbledon officials are refusing to show any soccer on the All England Club’s big screen, despite football fever gripping the country as the national team bids to reach its first World Cup final since 1966.
Gareth Southgate’s England have been roared on by fans up and down the country as they defied expectations to set up a semi-final with Croatia - with the match taking place in Moscow on Wednesday. On the same day the men’s quarter-finals will be held in SW19.
But Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis stuck to his view that spectators coming to the grasscourt championships expect to see tennis and said that big-screen policy will remain in place to limit the disruption caused to players.
Fans will, however, be able to follow the action in Russia on their phones and tablets using the tournament’s wifi signal.
The World Cup final in Moscow is due to kick off on Sunday two hours after the traditional 2pm local time start of the men’s Wimbledon final - meaning the two matches are likely to overlap.
“What will happen next Sunday is Centre Court will be packed for the men’s final and I’m sure people will be able to follow the World Cup final,” Lewis told reporters on Monday.
“It’s not unheard of for there to be a ripple of applause or a shout when something special happens in a football tournament, and I’m sure everybody will understand if it does.”
Last Saturday, fans deserted Centre Court immediately after Rafael Nadal booked his place in the second week of the championships as England were playing Sweden in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Many spectators opted to leave the grounds and watch the match at neighbouring pubs, leaving Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka to start off their third round match in front of thousands of empty green seats.
Those who stuck around seemed to be more interested in following the action in Russia on their electronic devices than watching the tennis match taking place in front of them.
“Saturday was a fantastic day at the championships. We had superb tennis going on and we were benefiting from modern technology where people were able to follow the football, enjoy it, without disturbing other people,” said Lewis.
“I was out and about around the grounds and you could tell when England had scored... it was wonderful. We didn’t receive a single complaint from anyone who was here who felt their enjoyment of the tennis was interrupted and I’m sure it’ll be the same next Sunday.
“Hopefully England will get through to the final and it will be one of the very special days at Wimbledon.”
Lewis said the tournament had learnt its lesson after showing the 1996 European Championship semi-final between England and Germany, which was decided on penalties, on the big screen.
“I gather it wasn’t very successful because it did interrupt people’s enjoyment of the tennis and what we did last Saturday actually did work very well,” added Lewis.
Rather than worrying about what kind of disruption the World Cup final might cause to the two Wimbledon finalists, eight-times champion Roger Federer offered a different take on the potential clash.
“I’m more concerned the World Cup final will have issues because the Wimbledon final is going on. They’ll hear every point, Wow, Love-15, 15-30,” the Swiss said with a smile.
“The (football) players are going to look up in the crowd
and not understand what’s going on at Wimbledon.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Lovell