Paris (AFP)

Another blow of the plane for Roland-Garros: three days before the opening of the Parisian Grand Slam, exceptionally rescheduled in the fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic, its spectator gauge has been tightened once again, from 5,000 to 1,000 spectators per day.

This further reduction, which comes at the last minute, follows the new assembly restrictions announced Wednesday evening by the Minister of Health Olivier Véran for areas on "heightened alert", including Paris, to contain the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic in France.

This is the third time in less than three weeks that Roland Garros has been forced to reduce this gauge.

In the afternoon, the tournament director Guy Forget had nevertheless declared always "to hope to have 5,000 spectators".

"We are able to accommodate this population on a 12 hectare stadium," he stressed, insisting on the extension of the site - 1 km long.

But Prime Minister Jean Castex, guest on the evening of the program "You have the floor" on France 2, cut short his hopes by this statement: "We will apply at Roland Garros the same rules as elsewhere".

"We go from 5,000 to 1,000," he said again, assuring that this gauge concerned all the people authorized to enter the site on a daily basis.

But Matignon then told AFP that accredited people (organizers, players, staff, journalists, etc.), "subject to a specific protocol", were not counted among the thousand people authorized per day.

- 3% of the usual filling -

For the first time, at the beginning of September, the French Tennis Federation (FFT), which organizes Roland-Garros, had to revise its ambitions by halving, from a maximum of 20,000 to 11,500 spectators each day.

Under these conditions, it had presented a logic which was based on the division into three "hermetic, independent and autonomous" sectors of its stadium, around its three main courts, Philippe-Chatrier (5,000 seats), Suzanne-Lenglen (5,000) and Simonne-Mathieu (1.500), in the garden of the Auteuil greenhouses.

But, a week ago, Roland-Garros was again forced to tighten the bolts, with 5,000 daily spectators.

With this third tightening, in fifteen days of competition - the qualifying week takes place behind closed doors - only 15,000 spectators will be able to fill the stands throughout the Parisian fortnight.

Very, very far - less than 3% - of the nearly 520,000 welcomed in 2019.

Economically, not at all a detail for the FFT and French tennis, very largely supplied by Roland-Garros, up to 80% in 2019 (255.4 M EUR out of a total budget of the FFT of 325 M EUR).

And while the ticket office generates nearly 20% of tournament revenue.

With a gauge limited to 11,500 spectators, Forget had estimated that "the proceeds of the tournament (would) be divided by two", which corresponded to a sum between 130 and 140 million euros.

This reduction of the cursor to 1,000 spectators will further increase the shortfall.

And will force the organizers to take new steps at the last minute with ticket holders.

Contacted by AFP, the FFT said it would communicate Friday morning on the new conditions of reception of the public.

© 2020 AFP