Roland-Garros will ring hollow

The organizer proposes, but it is the government which disposes. While during the day, the director of Roland-Garros, Guy Forget, hoped to maintain the daily gauge at 5,000 spectators, ensuring on Europe 1 that watching tennis in the open air and with a mask ” was much safer than taking the metro or going to the supermarket “, The Prime Minister, Jean Castex, brought him back to earth, Thursday, September 24, during the program” Vous ont la parole “on France 2.

The head of government announced that there could not be more than 1000 people per day on the site of the tournament to attend its unpublished autumn version (from September 27 to October 11).

This new reduction follows the assembly restrictions announced Wednesday by the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, for the zones “On heightened alert”, of which Paris is part. “We will apply the same rules at Roland-Garros as elsewhere”, asserted Mr. Castex who, at first, suggested that this figure included players, coaches, organizers or journalists.

Later contacted by Agence France-Presse, Matignon specified that these accredited persons “Subject to a specific protocol” (and estimated at nearly 4,000 daily) were not counted among the 1,000 authorized people.

However, for the French Tennis Federation (FFT), this announcement remains a cold shower foreshadowing the atmosphere to come for the fortnight and not only in terms of the weather.

In total, in fifteen days of competition – the qualifying week has been taking place since Monday, September 21 behind closed doors – only 15,000 spectators should be able to attend the tournament. Far, very far from the nearly 520,000 welcomed in 2019 throughout the fortnight.

Obviously, the places promise to be almost as rare as the sets lost by Rafael Nadal on the Parisian clay. According to Le Figaro, the FFT would imagine the following distribution for the 1,000 lucky recipients: 600 spectators drawn at random, 350 guests from partners and 50 people in the presidential platform. Random? Yes, but it was the risk to take to organize the tournament whatever the cost.

A “daring” tournament brought back to reality

Unlike Wimbledon, which very quickly preferred to skip its turn for 2020 rather than offer an ersatz Grand Slam, Roland Garros has never lowered the white flag. On the contrary. From March 18, the president of the FFT, Bernard Giudicelli, took the tennis world by surprise by setting up his tournament in the fall and already with the idea of ​​inaugurating in front of the maximum number of spectators his new central court wearing his roof.

But his optimism came up against another agenda: that of the Covid 19 pandemic and its unpredictable rebounds. For the third time in a few weeks, Roland-Garros had to revise its ambitions downwards.

At the beginning of July, thanks to the epidemic reflux observed in the territory, the organizers still hoped to be able to welcome 20,000 spectators per day at the start of the fortnight, and nearly 10,000 for the finals. “If health trends are favorable, additional tickets will go on sale in September”, promised Mr. Giudicelli.

Two months later, the optimism of the beginning of the summer had given way to the realism of the start of the school year, marked by the deterioration of the health situation in the country. On September 7, three weeks before kick-off, tournament management announced that the public would be limited to 11,500 people, or 30% of the usual daily tonnage.

Despite this first blow, the FFT refused to “To sink into a disaster”. And its president almost appealed to the greatness of France in the columns of The team : “We are Roland-Garros, a daring tournament and we also want to give this image of a France which is capable of adapting (…). We must not suffer, we must bring back a little life “, he enthusiastically.

Read also Roland-Garros in the era of Covid, between reduced gauges and players kept in the eye

Ticket sales account for 18% of tournament revenue

The interministerial crisis unit and the Ile-de-France regional health agency validated the division of the 12 hectare and 1 km long stadium into three sectors “Hermetic, independent and autonomous”, organized around its three main courts.

But this option, which made it possible to receive 5,000 daily spectators on the Philippe-Chatrier, as many on the Suzanne-Lenglen and 1,500 on the Simonne-Mathieu, in the garden of the Auteuil greenhouses, was going to be changed ten days later by the Paris Police Prefecture. The gauge was brought on September 17 to 5,000 spectators maximum per day, the limit then set by the government in the departments in the “red zone”.

Thursday evening, questioned on the fact that Roland-Garros extends over a very large area and that the competition takes place in the open air, Jean Castex replied: “It doesn’t matter, there are population groups”.

Even before the first exchanges, we know the first big loser of this 2020 edition: the cash drawer of the FFT. Even if the latter has cash reserves, the shortfall will be considerable, ticketing accounting for 18% of the income of a tournament which itself represents 80% of the annual turnover of the FFT (255.4 million on a budget total of 325 million).

When the gauge was set at 11,500 daily spectators at most, Guy Forget spoke of “Products divided by two” and estimated the shortfall between 130 million and 140 million euros. With this last gauge imposed on the organizers, the “product” has been reduced to its simplest expression, or almost.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here