Friday September 18, 2020 ((rezonodwes.com)) – Ten days from its kickoff, exceptionally in the fall (September 27-October 11), Roland- Garros was overtaken once again by the reality of the Covid-19: the Parisian Grand Slam will finally be able to accommodate only 5,000 spectators per day.
When, at the beginning of July, Roland-Garros had set the bar at up to 20,000 daily spectators before to reopen its ticket office, ie “from 50 to 60% of its maximum usual tonnage”, the announcement seemed ambitious.
For the first time, ten days ago, the French Tennis Federation (FFT), which is organizing the tournament, had had to revise its ambitions by halving. Both in the face of the deterioration of the health situation in France and the impossibility, stated by Prime Minister Jean Castex at the end of August, of “deviating” from the maximum level of 5,000 people “in the red departments (…) where he There is a strong viral circulation. ”
Under these conditions, she had presented an intermediate option which allowed her to receive up to 11,500 spectators per day. An option then validated by the French authorities and qualified as “responsible and reasonable to date” by the director general of the FFT Jean-François Vilotte.
Its logic: the division into three “hermetic, independent and autonomous” sectors of its stadium of 12 hectares and 1 km long. Three zones organized around its three main courts, Philippe-Chatrier (5,000 seats), Suzanne-Lenglen (5,000) and Simonne-Mathieu (1,500), in the garden of the Auteuil greenhouses.
– 20,000, 11,500, then 5,000 –
But, ten days from its opening and only four from the start of qualifying, here is Roland-Garros again forced to tighten the bolts, with 5,000 spectators per day at most, the prefecture told AFP Paris police station.
“It is important for the sporting, social and economic life of our country that a major event like Roland Garros can be organized taking into account health imperatives”, the FFT reacted in a press release.
hardening comes as the Minister of Health Olivier Véran described the Covid-19 epidemic as “again very active in our country” Thursday afternoon during a press conference.
The FFT “is aware of the disappointment that will be felt by people who will ultimately not be able to access the stadium, due to this reduction in the number of spectators (…) The 2020 tournament will be an exemplary tournament for the promotion of sport, for its influence and the defense of its values ”, concludes the federation.
In total, in fifteen days of competition – the qualifying week takes place behind closed doors – only 75,000 spectators will be able to attend the tournament. Far, very far from the nearly 520,000 welcomed in 2019 throughout the Parisian fortnight. Fans of the yellow ball who will also not have the leisure to see Naomi Osaka play, winner of the last US Open, injured in a thigh.
Economically, this is not at all a detail for the FFT and French tennis, largely supplied by Roland-Garros, up to 80% in 2019 (255.4 M EUR out of a total FFT budget of 325 M EUR). And while the ticket office generates nearly 20% of the tournament's revenue.
With a limit of 11,500 spectators, Roland-Garros director Guy Forget estimated that “the tournament's proceeds (would) be divided by two ”, which corresponded to some 140 million euros.
Lowering the slider to 5,000 should further increase the shortfall and will force the organizers to take new last-minute steps with ticket holders.
Usually scheduled for late May-early June, Roland-Garros was postponed to the fall to everyone's surprise, under the unilateral impetus of its organizers, from mid-March.
Stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic for five months, from the beginning of March, world tennis finally revived in early August.
But no tournament has opened its doors to so many spectators since. The three biggest so far, US Open, Cincinnati (relocated to New York), and Rome this week, have even been held behind closed doors.