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French sports minister wants 5,000 fans in stadiums by end of July

French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu wearing a protective mask (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Roxana Mărăcineanu, France’s minister for sport, has outlined ambitious plans to open French sporting events to fans as soon as the end of July. 

Speaking to L’Alsace newspaper, the former Olympic swimmer indicated that she was working towards opening stadiums to no more than 5,000 fans – the government-mandated limit – at any one time, in time for the start of the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season, which is currently scheduled to begin on August 23.

Mărăcineanu also mentioned the Tour de France, which has been postponed until the end of August, as a target for having fans back at events.

She said: “My aim is to give us the chance to have a popular sport, with fans in the stadiums, even in limited numbers, as early as the end of July, if it’s possible.”

Referring to Germany’s Bundesliga, which has completed four rounds of fixtures behind closed doors since mid-May, Mărăcineanu added: “When I see the matches behind closed doors at the moment, I’d much prefer to involve at least the groups of supporters so that they can enjoy the sporting spectacle.

“As for the Tour de France, we’ll see where we are in September, but we’re hopeful that things will go in the right direction. It remains to be seen the impact of the broader relaxation now in force, whether in schools, travel, businesses, etc., which will have a significant impact on the Tour de France.”

She went on to say that the 5,000 figure “remains in line with the evolution of the epidemic”, noting that “5,000 people in a stadium with 80,000 seats, like the Stade de France, is obviously easier to manage”.

Mărăcineanu also commented on the French government’s ten-person rule, which limits how many people are allowed in public spaces at anyone time but could also mean that groups of ten could access the stadium together and point a way toward allowing fans entry.

She said: “The gauge is still 5,000 maximum, so we won’t be able to exceed it, but it’s like the ten-person gauge in the public space: it all depends on where you are. There is the possibility of grouping in five groups of ten if we are in a large gymnasium for example. Maybe it will be the same for sport.”

Team sports in France have not yet begun contact training, and are set to resume socially-distanced collective training from tomorrow.

Mărăcineanu also continued her defence of French authorities’ move to call an early end to the 2019-20 football season, explaining that the decision was taken by the country’s Ligue de Football Professionnel, not the government itself.

She said: “My job is to secure those decisions, not to let anyone down and to prepare for the future. I repeat what I’ve already said: we took this decision so as not to put our sportsmen and women at risk. We decided to treat them as citizens like any other.”