France extends 5,000-fans limit in stadia



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France with spectator limit Aug 2020 Image: Gérard Al-Fil

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has stated that the French Government will maintain a 5,000-spectator limit in sports stadiums until October 30th at the earliest.

The limit had been due to expire on August 31st, but Castex announced the two-month extension in response to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. The fatal respiratory disease has also left France bruised.

The news will come as a blow to French rights-holders who were hoping to see the limit raised. Media reports stated that the Top 14 rugby fixtures will be most affected by the extension of the ‘5,000 fans limit’, as 60 percent of professional clubs’ incomes depend on gate revenues.

The Top 14 is a professional rugby union club competition that is played in France. Created in 1892, the Top 14 is at the top of the national league system operated by the French National Rugby League, also known by its French initialism of LNR.

Eight match days in the rugby competition, starting September 4th, will be affected, which could lead to losses of between €1m and €2m per club, media reports added.

Philippe Tayeb, President of Top 14 side Bayonne told mediapersons, “I want to understand this decision, but it must be accompanied by financial measures, otherwise we are in the process of disaster.”

The top-flight in French professional football, Ligue 1, will see eight match days affected by the spectator limits while they will also apply for a French national football team fixture on October 24th.

Ligue 1 is a French professional league for men’s association football clubs. At the top of the French football league system, it is the country’s primary football competition.

Castex provided a glimmer of hope for event organizers by explaining that local authorities could provide exemptions from the rules, provided they can adhere to and verify strict sanitary measures.

The French Open tennis tournament, for example, has succeeded in raising the limit to 7,500 spectators for the Grand-Slam event, which has had to be rescheduled to September 27 as a result of the deadly pandemic.

Ligue 1 side Olympic Marseille has also made a formal request to local authorities to increase the limit to 20,000 spectators at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille (France), home for their season opener against St Étienne on August 21st.

Simon Gillham, President of Top 14 side Brive told mediapersons, “I hope they have a lot of flexibility, that they will take into account the fact that the epidemic is not present in some areas.”

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