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British tennis body fined $1mn over ban on Russian players

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The governing body of British tennis has been fined $1mn by the men’s tour for banning Russian and Belarusian players from participating in its tournaments over the war in Ukraine.

The Association of Tennis Professionals on Wednesday imposed the penalty on the Lawn Tennis Association and threatened to remove its membership after a hearing, according to a person close to the LTA, which could be hit with further sanctions if the ban remains.

The fine, which follows penalties issued by the women’s tour, underscores how the LTA’s decision to block Russians and Belarusians from playing at Wimbledon and other tournaments split the tennis world.

In response to the bans issued by the LTA and the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the professional tennis tours barred UK tournaments from giving world ranking points to players.

The LTA said it was “deeply disappointed” with the fine and accused the ATP of showing “a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine”.

“The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK government’s response to that invasion,” the LTA added.

The penalty handed down by the ATP, which declined to comment, followed a $750,000 fine in July from the Women’s Tennis Association, which also fined the AELTC $250,000. The WTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The LTA on Wednesday warned that the fines would have a “material impact” on its “ability to develop and host tennis” in the UK and called off a series of ATP Challenger events it had intended to hold in the first three months of next year.

The LTA, which is already appealing the WTA fine, is considering its response to the decision taken by the ATP, which will donate the $1mn to humanitarian relief in Ukraine.

The total sum is split evenly across the LTA’s ATP events at Queen’s Club in west London and Eastbourne in South East England, and “challenger” events, for lower-ranked players, at Surbiton, Nottingham, and Ilkley.

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan said the UK had been clear that “sport cannot be used to legitimise” Russia’s war but described the decisions by the ATP and WTA as “the wrong move”.

“Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result,” she said. “I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”

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