In Brive as elsewhere, French rugby awaits the return of the public

CA Brive has finally returned to its post-confinement Stadium, during a friendly match against Racing 92 on August 28.

In the “next world”, children continue to return rugby balls to players when the oval object escapes the field. And the refreshment stalls still sell beers and sandwiches… but on the condition of traveling with only one person per group seated in the grandstand, then following the arrows indicating the direction of movement.

Friday August 28, the Brive Athletic Club (CAB) finally found its post-confinement Stadium. A friendly match lost against the Ile-de-France armada of Racing 92 in front of less than 5,000 people, maximum authorized capacity: 4,500 subscribers, as well as 300 other witnesses (supervision of the two clubs, security personnel, journalists…).

Since then, the CAB has already obtained a first victory. Or rather, a first prefectural exemption. Sunday September 6, against Bayonne, the club will be able to play its first match of the season in the French league in front of 9,000 spectators. At least if the match is played.

“We must remain vigilant, everything can change overnight”, recalls Simon Gillham, the president. For all clubs, it’s the same expectation. The same need, on a case-by-case basis, and always subject to the health situation: to succeed in convincing his prefecture to welcome more people to the stadium.

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An economic stake

Normally, more than 14,000 people can mass around the lawn of Amédée-Domenech. At the entrance, near the stele of “Players fallen for France”, no wicket, no turnstile. For the occasion, a security agent distributes hydroalcoholic gel.

For now, Simon Gillham says he is unable to quantify with precision the shortfall of a stadium with a limited capacity. The” economic challenge ” appears obvious for the twelfth provisional budget of the Top 14 during the previous season (16.8 million euros). Just like for the “Department, restaurateurs, hotels He continues. All the more reason, according to him, in Brive-la-Gaillarde, some 46,000 inhabitants, sub-prefecture of Corrèze: “Our city is already a little isolated, without TGV, with few planes …”

Tuesday 1er September, in Paris, representatives of French professional rugby presented their situation to the Prime Minister’s office

Where professional football clubs depend to a very large extent on television broadcasting rights, those of rugby remain dependent on receipts on match days (12% of the budget of Top 14 and Pro D2 clubs, according to their report. national assistance and management control department for the 2018-2019 financial year) and their partnerships (49% of the budget on average).

Tuesday 1er September, in Paris, representatives of French professional rugby presented their situation to the Prime Minister’s office. With the intention of seeking the assistance of the State to cross this difficult period, in particular by the means of an exemption of social contributions.

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Health instructions repeated in a loop

Against Racing, all the boxes in the Europe stand were closed. Except one, usually reserved for a bank, and open for interview purposes. White and black cap in hand, Simon Gillham arrived that day from Paris. As he climbed the stairs, he stopped several times. Sometimes to ask a spectator if he really had a mask, sometimes to greet another.

At the stadium sound system, the same precautionary principle. Instructions repeated over and over before the match: invitation to “Use and abuse the hydroalcoholic gel”, obligation to wear a mask from the age of 11 and recommended distance (although sometimes difficult to comply with in practice). On the big screen of the stadium, an insistent message: ” We count on you “, is it written between the stages of the “Health guide” for the public. In this heavy context, there were some moments of recklessness. A few waving flags. Some applause for the three Brivist tests, one less than the racingmen. With a local song in the speakers: To our memories, of the Corrèze group Trois Cafés Gourmands.

In Brive, a gauge blocked at 4,500 subscribers

On the scale of the Covid-19, the department is for the moment in the green zone, among those where the virus does the least damage. Despite the provisional increase in the maximum number of spectators, the CAB prefers for the moment to block the number of its subscribers at 4,500 – against 7,500 in normal times – and sell the remaining seats individually. Precautionary measure, in case of going to the red zone. “Let’s already be happy to be there”, slipped before the match, and before the rain, Loïc Rol, original supporter of Aféciouna, a group of socios Brivists.

At the end of the game, another novelty at the edge of the field: microphones stretched as best they can, the interviews should in principle be done three meters from the players, supposed to remain in a sanitary bubble. “Avoiding contamination remains a small victory every week, it allows us to work well collectively”, appreciates Thomas Laranjeira, three-quarters of Brive.

“The nerves under strain”

Racing scrum half Teddy Iribaren declares himself “Skeptical about the season” : “We always wonder if we will be able to play or not, if we will be able to train, it puts our nerves to the test.” After the game, back to the bus: “Normally, what makes the charm is also to be able to stop a little with the supporters”, begins to regret Yannick Nyanga, sports director of Racing and himself a former player.

On Wednesday September 2, five days after the trip to Brive, Racing announced that it had detected a case of Covid among its professional group. Without revealing the identity of the person concerned. Unless there are still two contaminations, the racingmen will be able to play their match in Lyon on Saturday.

Conversely, the Parisians of the French Stadium have acquired the postponement of their meeting against the Union Bordeaux-Bègles, which should have taken place on Friday at the opening of the Top 14. Through its disciplinary committee, the National League rugby team has opened an investigation to determine possible responsibilities in the contamination of 27 club members, according to the newspaper’s count The team, during a summer preparation course in Nice.

In theory, the Stade Français will travel to Brive on behalf of the 23e day of the championship, in May 2021. In theory…


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