With Wimbledon underway, it is time for us to dust our rackets off and try our own hand. However it is not always fun and games, and whilst most fans may not realise it, Health & Safety regularly plays a (back)hand in the world famous tournament. So take some time to reflect upon these standout moments in sporting history before you put your whites on.
Competitiveness can often get the better of us, whatever the standard, as proven by Djokovic in the French open earlier in the year when he narrowly avoided disqualification thanks to a nimble and alert linesman whose reflexes saved Djokovic’s tournament, as well as a potential trip to the hospital. A frustrated Djokovic launched his racket at the floor only for it to ricochet off the court backwards towards the linesman.
Similarly, Wimbledon this year saw Tsonga lose his composure when his met his match with Andy Murray. The French star risked a penalty after hitting the ball at full force into the crowd.
In these instances, the players were lucky to avoid a penalty, as tennis rules have a strong Health & Safety focus. Rackets must not leave a player’s hand and there must be not be any verbal abuse either.
However, this has not always been the case. British representatives Jeremy Bates and Tim Henman were defaulted after Henman injured a ball-girl in 1995. The injury caused was the result of an accident, admitted by Henman, but was tournament ending for the pair. A statement from the referee’s office at the time reminded all “The rules precisely state that a player must be in control of his actions on court, and in such cases there is no choice but to default automatically on the basis of unsportsmanlike conduct.”
This year’s games have seen a mighty £57,000 worth of fines racked up for bad behaviour on the court. Players causing disorder on the court through poor sportsmanship reflects badly on the sport, but also risks repeat accidents and repeat headlines like those above.
Health & Safety can also play an influential role off the court during the tournament. With eyes all over the world watching, the organisers feel they cannot afford to have any negative publicity and so made history when they closed the giant screen on Murray Mount in June 2011 as it could have posed a slip hazard. This move was justified on ‘health and safety grounds’ but this was strongly objected by the HSE who politely reminded Wimbledon officials that people slip over in the rain on a regular basis.
Whilst perhaps a little over the top, this overcautious move along with the other incidences show that the safety of all is a priority in making sure Wimbledon serves us all a pleasant tournament.
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