French government maintains 5,000-fan limit for sports stadiums

(Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images)

French prime minister Jean Castex has announced the French government will maintain a 5,000-spectator limit in sports stadiums until October 30 at the earliest.

The limit had been due to expire on August 31, but Castex revealed the two-month extension in response to a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.

The news will come as a blow to French rights-holders who were hoping to see the limit raised. French publication L’Équipe reports the Top 14 rugby competition will be most affected by the extension of the regulations, as 60 per cent of professional clubs’ incomes are based on matchday revenues.

Eight matchdays in the rugby competition, starting September 4, will be affected, which could lead to losses of between €1m and €2m per club, the publication estimates.

Philippe Tayeb, president of Top 14 side Bayonne told L’Équipe: “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 matchdays affected by the spectator limits while they will also apply for a French national football team fixture on October 24.

Castex provided a ray of hope for event organisers 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 pushed back to September 27 as a result of the pandemic.

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

Simon Gillham, president of Top 14 side Brive told L’Équipe: “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.”