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Wimbledon kicks World Cup into touch

By Sam Sheringham, for CNN
  • Wimbledon organizers are making the tournament a "World Cup-free" zone
  • None of the screens at the All England Club will show matches from the football tournament
  • England's final group match is on day three of Wimbledon's tennis championships
  • All England Club says it may make more money if fans leave to watch the soccer games

(CNN) -- Organizers of this year's Wimbledon tennis championships have decided to kick football firmly into the long grass.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club has declared the tournament a "World Cup-free zone" and is refusing to show matches from the showpiece in South Africa on their big screen or in any other public areas.

Wimbledon runs from June 21 to July 4, while the World Cup starts on June 11 and ends one month later.

Wimbledon chiefs are determined that fans who enter the grounds of the famous southwest London venue are focused on only one sport.

"This is arguably the leading tennis tournament in the world and people come here to watch tennis," said Tim Phillips, chairman of the All England Club.

"If people want to watch the World Cup they should go to South Africa or watch it on the TV."

If people want to watch the World Cup they should go to South Africa or watch it on the TV
--Tim Phillips, All England Club chairman
Video: World Cup tickets go on sale
  • Wimbledon
  • Tennis
  • FIFA World Cup

The Wimbledon complex has a huge screen positioned behind Court Number One, where fans who do not have tickets for Center Court have traditionally gathered to watch matches.

The club's decision to keep football at bay could frustrate patriotic sports fans who want to catch a glimpse of England in action.

England's final group match against Slovenia kicks off at 3 p.m. UK time (1400 GMT), midway through the third day of the tennis championships.

Should England reach the quarterfinals, the game would be on the same day as either the men's semifinals or the women's final.

Sports business analyst Drew Barrand says organizers might take a slight hit on food and drink sales if people choose to vacate the venue during England games, but doesn't expect the decision to have any major impact on the business success of the event.

"I doubt it will backfire on ticket sales," Barrand, of the Sport Industry Group, told CNN. "They don't want to take attention away from the tennis.

"If you put up massive World Cup screens, the chances are that everyone would be outside sitting on the greens watching the football as opposed to watching the tennis.

"It's such a prestigious ticket getting into Wimbledon that I don't think they'll get hit commercially."

Wimbledon press spokesman Johnny Perkins said an exodus of football fans from the complex could even help increase profits.

"It works in our favor because what tends to happen is that if anyone has a burning desire to watch the football they leave, which means we can generate a new ticket for someone else to come in," Perkins told CNN.