SW19 Diary: 'Elf and safety leaves Wimbledon unwell
Thursday 23 June 2011
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'."
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