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Free tickets to Wimbledon for around 1,000 Ukrainian refugees and their host families

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 23/06/2022 Elly Blake
General view of the 2022 tournament logo ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon © PA General view of the 2022 tournament logo ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

More than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees and their host families are being given free Wimbledon tickets.

The All England Club that runs the championships has donated 650 tickets to people living in Merton and a similar number in neighbouring Wandsworth.

Merton council said it has received more than 400 refugees through both the Homes for Ukraine and Friends and Family schemes since the Russian invasion began in February.

Eleanor Stringer, deputy leader of Merton council, said it was delighted “to share some of the excitement of the Wimbledon Championships with our Ukrainian guests”.

Sally Bolton, head of the All England Club, said: “I’m delighted that Ukrainian refugees hosted across Merton and Wandsworth will be joining us for play on middle Sunday at Wimbledon.

“We hope this will be a great day for the local community, with thousands of tickets also distributed to our Covid heroes from the NHS and social care, local residents, schools and charities.”

Play is being scheduled ahead of the championships on the traditional rest day of middle Sunday for the first time this championships “in order to reach broader and more diverse audiences”.

Some of the tickets were being given on Thursday to the refugees at a pre-Championship tea organised by Merton council, the All England Club and local charity Polish Family Association to welcome the new residents to the borough.

It comes after the run-up to the event has been overshadowed by a row over Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament amid the invasion of Ukraine.

The men’s and women’s tours have penalised the championships for the decision by stripping it of ranking points for players at this year’s event.

The ban, which will mean Russian men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev will not be allowed to play, sparked a mixed reaction from players, with Novak Djokovic calling it “crazy”.

Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina, who is an ambassador for the United24 charity launched by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to help the war-torn country, said Wimbledon was “right” to ban players from the championships if they don’t speak out against the Russian regime.

She spoke this week of her worry for her grandmother who has been trapped in the Black Sea port of Odesa.

“I hope that this will end one day and I can come back and see her,” she said.

More than 60,000 people fleeing Ukraine have arrived in the UK, some with family visas and others under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme.

Ukrainian children will now be able to come to the UK without a parent or guardian under the scheme, the Government announced this week.

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