"We are suffering the situation because we reduce our number of spectators when our rooms are often full", deplores Alain Béral, president of the National Basketball League (LNB). Nearly two million spectators are affected by cancellations, postponements or closed doors imposed in the sports field because of the spread of the coronavirus. A total of 450 sporting events were disrupted by the ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people until April 15. Communicated by the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, after a meeting with representatives of federations, leagues and clubs on Tuesday, March 10, these figures are chilling in the back for the French sports community.
If this measure is extended until the end of the season, the overall consequences could amount to between 50 and 100 million euros for professional football clubs, suggests Bernard Caïazzo. Faced with ambient uncertainty, the president of Premier League, the union of Ligue 1 clubs, fears a stoppage of the championship as in Italy: “We had to resolve ourselves behind closed doors vis-à-vis the broadcasters who pay for a show. These revenues are so important to us that it is inconceivable to put the championship on hold. "
While some clubs, notably those in Ligue 1, enjoy significant TV rights, many clubs in other championships derive a large part of their revenues from ticketing. "A third of the revenue of our clubs comes from the ticket office", says Alain Béral. In the 2017-2018 season, this proportion rose to 13% for the Top 14 clubs according to the latest report from the National Directorate of Aid and Management Control.
Administrative and financial director of the JDA Dijon Basket, Gaëtan Marteil mentions a loss of 50,000 euros for the 3e in the ranking of the Jeep Elite, which plays only two home games by April 15. However, he is wary of a situation that could persist beyond this date: "By recently winning the Leaders Cup, we went from an 80% occupancy rate to sold out with more than 1,300 repeat subscribers. If these measures are to apply until the playoffs at the end of the season, it may be complicated for our financial budget. " In rugby, the losses are even greater: "Depending on the Top 14 club, they can vary between 100,000 and 800,000 euros per match", believes a member of the National Rugby League (NRL).
Cancellation insurance contracts are difficult to activate in such a context. “The organizers assume that their event will never be canceled. This is why few clubs take out cancellation insurance. And they are even rarer to have bought the contagious disease clause so that ticketing coverage works in the current situation ”, explains Patrick Vajda, broker specializing in sports event insurance. Although the JDA Dijon has taken out cancellation insurance, Gaëtan Marteil considers that there is a " law void " : “Epidemics and pandemics are elements excluded from contracts. "
While compensation from insurers is to be ruled out in most cases, the solution may lie with the government, although a state of natural disaster cannot be declared. "Local authorities can decide to compensate for club losses with a subsidy but there is no obligation to do so", underlines Patrick Vajda.
Since the announcement of the Minister of Health on Sunday, the question is the same for sports clubs and leagues: postponement or in camera? With various consequences depending on the choice. "The postponement imposes a relatively small loss at the ticket office but occasional partners can request a renegotiation of the contract for reimbursement. The closed door is especially a loss of ticketing at the counter which is more important in France than in Spain, for example, where the subscribers are numerous ", analyzes Patrick Vajda.
"Hard to imagine playing without spectators"
The Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs quickly decided to play the matches behind closed doors until April 15. "Economically, it is a heartbreaker that we would have done well but we have to think about the health of our players and our spectators", recalls Bernard Caïazzo, president of ASSE. The presidents of the Top 14 and Pro D2 clubs met on Tuesday evening by telephone and plan to take a decision on Monday 16 March at a general meeting in Toulouse.
"Apart from two Pro D2 games this weekend, we have the advantage of not having any Top 14 matches before March 21, so we allow ourselves this time to think about it", explains a member of the LNR. “A file with the consequences of the two scenarios will be communicated to the clubs. Many were in favor of postponing until last night, but they realize the complexity involved in scheduling. To decide to postpone after April 15 is to take the risk of playing everything in a very short time. "
On the basketball side, LNB president Alain Béral believes that behind closed doors is the worst option while the JDA Dijon will play without spectators against the Metropolitans 92 on Saturday: "It’s hard to imagine playing without spectators because we’re playing for the audience. Beyond the economic aspect, there is also this mission of the clubs. " A few hours before the board meeting on Wednesday evening, the president of the league stresses the importance of bringing the championship to a close. He also plans to postpone matches to limit the constraint of the 1,000 spectator tonnage.
A gauge that poses another problem in the sphere of rugby, as a member of the NRL evokes: "How do I select spectators or subscribers? To choose, most clubs prefer the camera because the sorting is a little contrary to the values of the sport. "