IT is ironic that much of the talk during the first week of the French Open has been about a Grand Slam tournament that is still weeks away.

And the primary question is: will Wimbledon be an exhibition event this summer, rather than the biggest tennis event in the calendar?

The revolt over the decision to strip Wimbledon of all ranking points came in response to the LTA’s banning all Russian and Belarusian players following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Whichever side you are on, there is little dispute this has turned into an almighty mess.

Wimbledon’s decision to ban the players may be harsh on the individuals but is understandable. The last thing the All England Club want is Daniil Medvedev or any of his compatriots winning, resulting in pictures of a Russian player being presented with the trophy by a member of the royal family, as is customary.

Wimbledon’s decision, having taken government guidance was, they have said, based on the morals of what is right and wrong in the bigger picture, not just in a sporting context.

The response, then, of the ATP and WTA, to remove all ranking points, was rash to say the least. It has ensured this conversation has been prolonged far more than it otherwise would have been, and has led to numerous players rebranding Wimbledon an “exhibition” tournament.

However, it is hard to buy into that viewpoint. While the 2,000 ranking points on offer for the winner are undoubtedly valuable, there are few players who would prioritise the points over the prestige of becoming Wimbledon champion, and of course the millions on offer.

As for the impact on fans, it is minimal. As Andy Murray said, even the most fervent supporters of golf, football and the like have little knowledge, or place little importance, on the number of ranking points being offered for winning The Masters, The Open and the World Cup.

Former world No.1 Naomi Osaka has already said she is considering skipping Wimbledon because it now feels like an exhibition event, but she is in the minority with most players agreeing with Murray, who said “Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition”.

More than anything, though, this just highlights what a mess tennis has made of this. That much of the first week of the French Open has been overshadowed by talk of Wimbledon ranking points, a conversation topic that has barely registered in the history of tennis, highlights that the ATP and WTA have got this wrong.

What also should have been, and almost certainly has not been, taken into consideration is what happens if the war is still ongoing next year?  Will Wimbledon, if the ban of Russian and Belarusian players remains in place, be stripped of ranking points again? And the year after that?

It seems certain that the entry list for Wimbledon, which begins in a month, will not be greatly affected.

And what is also certain is that the feel of the tournament will be unchanged.

Do not try to tell me that the nerves felt by any player on match point in the final, or the joy of winning on centre court, will be altered one jot by this ranking point decision.

And this is why politics and sport don’t mix – even though it is almost impossible to avoid.


The Commonwealth Games doesn’t have its problems to seek these days; from a waning of interest by the public to an almighty struggle to find host cities, the Games are at a low not experienced for some time.

So, with preparations for Birmingham 2022 going relatively smoothly, the last thing the Games needed was a decision that could, ultimately, all but end the participation of Northern Ireland in future.

Last week it was revealed that three of Northern Ireland’s gymnastics squad, including one of the stars, Rhys McClenaghan, have been barred from competing at this summer’s Games because they have represented Ireland in international competition.

McClenaghan is reigning Commonwealth champion on the pommel horse and his exclusion, along with his team-mates, bodes  poorly for Northern Ireland.

Currently gymnastics is the only sport to disregard the terms of the Belfast agreement – which routinely allows athletes to compete for Ireland but switch to Northern Ireland for the Commonwealth Games – but were this ruling to be expanded to other sports, this would almost entirely end Northern Ireland’s participation.

Boxer Paddy Barnes won two Olympic medals for Ireland as well as two Commonwealth golds for Northern Ireland and there are numerous other examples of Irish athletes flying both the Irish and Northern Irish flag.

The outcry over this decision by gymnastics’ governing body suggests there may be a sea change in the coming weeks but if not, we may sadly be witnessing the beginning of the end of Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games.