Peng Shuai Indian Wells 2017

Australian Open chief backtracks on Peng Shuai protest ban after heavy criticism

Craig Tiley reversed the decision to confiscate banners and T-shirts regarding Peng Shuai’s disappearance at the Australian Open, so long as they are “peaceful” and “didn’t disrupt.”

Back in November, former French Open and Wimbledon doubles champion Peng Shuai accused former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into a sexual relationship. Global concern then rose when she publicly disappeared for three weeks.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), chaired by Steve Simon, had been extremely vocal and decisive in their support for Peng Shuai.

However, after China’s continued failure and refusal to cooperate with requests for a “full, fair and transparent investigation,” they took the decision to withdraw all events from China, including the prestigious WTA Finals.

Whilst the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had held a video interview with the Chinese star, albeit heavily criticised for being weak, WTA Chairman Simon had only been limited to email correspondence he felt was “100% orchestrated.”

The latest update to the situation came when Peng Shuai retracted her allegations in an interview with a pro-Beijing news publication, saying there had been multiple “misunderstandings.”

With the situation never being fully resolved and the Australian Open underway, Melbourne Park spectators had been wearing T-shirts and displaying banners that read ‘where is Peng Shuai?’

However, security guards were recorded removing banners and ejecting fans for their protests.

Amongst those who were heavily critical of the bans was 18-time singles and 31-time doubles Slam champion Martina Navratilova, who slammed the decision as “pathetic and cowardly.”

The decision has now been reversed following such backlash and Australian Open director Craig Tiley told reporters that spectators would be permitted to wear protest T-shirts and display banners so long as they attended without the “intent to disrupt” and were “peaceful”.

Tiley also added that decisions would be made on a case-to-case basis.

Speaking with the Syndey Morning Herald, Tiley said “if someone wants to wear a T-shirt and make a statement about Peng Shuai that’s fine. [But] it really takes away from the comfort and safety of the fans.”

Moreover, Tiley also told news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) “it’s all been a bit lost in translation from some people who are not here and don’t really know the full view.

“The situation in the last couple of days is that some people came with a banner on two large poles and we can’t allow that.

“If you are coming to watch the tennis that’s fine, but we can’t allow anyone to cause a disruption at the end of the day.”

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.