SW19 Diary: 'Elf and safety leaves Wimbledon unwell

  • @RobinScottEllio

It probably breaks their own regulations, but the Health and Safety Executive has gone to war with Wimbledon. As the rain tumbled down, its chief executive opened hostilities yesterday morning only to be greeted with a withering return of fire from the All England Club. By the time the clouds had cleared, they had cleared the HSE's tanks off their lawns.

The dispute revolves around the decision not to show Andy Murray's first-round match on the big screen on Henman Hill/Murray Mound/the slopey bit of SW19 (take your pick) during the rain on Monday evening on safety grounds. Some newspapers leapt on the "Elf and Safety"-bashing bandwagon which sparked yesterday's salvo from Judith Hackitt of the HSE. Hackitt wrote to Ian Ritchie, her counter-part at Wimbledon: "People have been walking up and down wet grassy slopes for years without catastrophic consequences. If the LTA was concerned about people slipping and suing for their injuries the message should have made clear the decision was 'on insurance grounds'. Health and safety excuses are becoming as much a feature of the British sporting calendar as the rain. You will understand that while we can do nothing about the weather, we will not let the excuses pass unchallenged."

Back came Wimbledon. "It must be entirely inappropriate," fumed Ritchie, "for the chairman of the HSE to make such public comments on decisions reached at an event when you have absolutely no knowledge of the circumstances... To use your own phrase I could not let your ill-informed comments 'pass unchallenged'."

Ooh arr, ooh hey! Roddick starts to dig The Wurzels

Attempts to complete Andy Roddick's conversion to The Wurzels are gathering pace. The American mentioned in the wake of his victory over Andreas Beck on Tuesday that he had stumbled across the "Combine Harvester" song on YouTube (how?) and could not get it out of his head. Yesterday The Wurzels rang the Wimbledon office – not all at once obviously. A collection of CDs is now on its way to Roddick.

Aussie roofer lives it up

There was a most deserving guest in the Royal Box on Centre Court yesterday, and we're not talking Bruce Forsyth. No, it was Rod Sheard, the man who designed the roof over the court. Sheard, an Australian, is also responsible for some of our top football grounds: The Emirates, the Reebok and Wembley.

McEnroe outs himself as a cricket fan

After Tuesday's visit of England's cricketers, yesterday revealed an improbable fan of this country's other summer sport. John McEnroe (by the way, the best TV pundit on any sport) used to be a regular watcher of the game during his playing trips to Wimbledon in the '80s (no doubt during the rain breaks). His favourite player was Viv Richards, whom he described as the "Rod Laver of cricket", while he also had an unsurprising soft spot for Ian Botham. And just to show he absolutely knew what he was talking about he chucked in a mention of "Gower, the leftie".