REVEALED: Wimbledon’s 300 line judges could be axed for the first time in the tournament’s 144-year history this summer – with Covid restrictions meaning HawkEye technology is used instead
- Around 300 line judges are employed by the All England Club each year
- But restrictions on numbers allowed on site at SW19 could see technology used
- The HawkEye Live system makes line calls using cameras around the court
- It is currently being used in the Australian Open in Melbourne instead of people
- All England Club committee member Tim Henman said it is a possibility
Human line judges may not be used at this year’s Wimbledon for the first time in the event’s 144-year history.
Organisers are considering replacing them with an automated HawkEye system similar to the one currently being used at the Australian Open in Melbourne because Covid-19 may restrict the numbers allowed onto the Wimbledon grounds.
Around 300 line judges are employed by the All England Club for the two-week Championships each year. They work on a rotational basis, moving around matches on all 18 courts.
The familiar sight of the smartly-dressed Wimbledon line judge, pictured behind Novak Djokovic, could become a thing of the past as a result of Covid-19
The smartly-attired line judges have been a part of the Wimbledon scenery for decades
The 300 or so line judges employed by the All England Club for Wimbledon may be replaced by HawkEye technology if there are restrictions on the number allowed on site at SW19
Smartly dressed in club attire, they are a familiar sight at the tournament but former British No 1 Tim Henman, a prominent member of the All England Club’s Committee, raised the possibility they may be absent this year.
‘For the 2021 Championships, we don’t know yet what the restrictions will be,’ Henman said in quotes reported by The Times.
‘So if there is a scenario where we are trying to limit the number of people on site, HawkEye Live would be an opportunity.’
Planning for this year’s Wimbledon, due to commence on June 28, is currently being based on a reduction in the usual number of spectators to ensure social distancing. A final decision is likely to be made in April.
HawkEye cameras have been used to make line calls at the Australian Open in Melbourne
All England Club committee member Tim Henman has suggested technology could be used
Wimbledon organisers are monitoring use of HawkEye Live to judge line calls at the Australian Open and could potentially use the technology.
Using multiple cameras around the court to track the flight of the ball and determine whether it landed in or out, it is an extension of the HawkEye challenge system in operation since 2006.
Players are allowed no more than three incorrect challenges per set.
Henman added: ‘In an ideal world I would like to have the HawkEye technology on the court but with line judges.
‘I enjoy the human element, the interaction between players and line judges, and selecting when to challenge.
Line judges on Centre Court line up to applaud Serena Williams after the 2019 final
‘Sometimes the challenges have been used up and there are no more challenges left, and I like that.’
Wimbledon was cancelled in 2020 for the first time since World War Two due to the coronavirus pandemic.
British No 2 Heather Watson said at the weekend she is in favour of dispensing with human line judges at Wimbledon in favour of technology.
‘If the world is in the situation that it is, it would be a smart thing to do for everyone’s safety,’ she said.
‘For me personally I do love the HawkEye system because I know there is no arguing with the technology. I personally trust it. I think it’s great and if they do have it, it should be on every court so it is fair for all players.’
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