Wimbledon to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete this year
(CNN) -- Wimbledon will accept entries from Russian and Belarusian players for this year's tournament if they agree to compete as neutral athletes and comply with "appropriate conditions," organizers announced Friday in a statement.
Tennis players from Russia and Belarus were banned from playing in last year's championships following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, resulting in the men's and women's professional tours -- the ATP and WTA -- and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) stripping Wimbledon of its ranking points.
Entry conditions for this year's event, one of tennis' four majors, include prohibiting "expressions of support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine," while players who receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian state will not be allowed to compete, including those receiving sponsorship from companies operated or controlled by them.
"We continue to condemn totally Russia's illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine," Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, said in a statement. "This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted.
"It is our view that, considering all factors, these are the most appropriate arrangements for The Championships for this year. We are thankful for the Government's support as we and our fellow tennis stakeholder bodies have navigated this complex matter and agreed on conditions we believe are workable.
"If circumstances change materially between now and the commencement of The Championships, we will consider and respond accordingly."
The All England Club said the entry conditions had been "carefully developed" through conversations with the UK government, the Lawn Tennis Association -- Britain's national governing tennis body -- and international stakeholders.
It added that the decision has the "full support" of the UK government, the LTA, ATP, WTA and ITF.
"The ITF's position on this issue has been clear and consistent from the start and remains the same," the ITF, world tennis' governing body, said in a statement.
"We acted swiftly to suspend the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus Tennis Federation from ITF membership and from participation in ITF international competitions until further notice.
"At the time we recognised that there would be specific responses from nations, and this is what we saw with the LTA and All England Lawn Tennis Club last year. Their collective position has now evolved, and we continue to work closely with them on this issue.
"Tennis stands in solidarity with Ukraine."
In a joint statement released Friday, the WTA and ATP said it is "pleased that all players will have an opportunity to compete at Wimbledon and LTA events this summer."
"It has taken a collaborative effort across the sport to arrive at a workable solution which protects the fairness of the game," the statement added.
"This remains an extremely difficult situation and we would like to thank Wimbledon and the LTA for their efforts in reaching this outcome, while reiterating our unequivocal condemnation of Russia's war on Ukraine."