French Open

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has again been forced to revise its fan attendance ambitions for the rescheduled 2020 French Open following orders from the Paris Police Prefecture amid the COVID-19 situation in the country.

The tournament is scheduled to take place over three weeks, from September 21 to October 11, and the FFT has maintained fans would be in attendance since the initial announcement of the postponement. Back in March, the FFT said the modernisation of the Roland Garros site – which includes the installation of a roof on the main Court Philippe-Chatrier – had enabled the grand slam event to be rescheduled to the autumn.

In July, the FFT announced plans to ensure a spectator capacity of 50% to 60% at the French Open, which would have allowed around 20,000 fans per day during the early stages of the tournament. Earlier this month, this was revised again with attendance capped at 11,500 per day.

The FFT said that the Roland-Garros complex would be split into three sites, each of which would include a show court and surrounding outside courts. Capacity at the Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen courts would be limited to 5,000 spectators, while attendance for Simonne-Mathieu was capped at 1,500.

However, yesterday (Thursday) evening the FFT confirmed that the health situation in the Ile-de-France region has led the Paris Police Prefecture to limit the number of spectators at Roland Garros to 5,000 per day over the entire 12 hectare site.

This will mean only 75,000 fans will be able to attend over the course of the tournament, compared to last year’s figure of 520,000. French newspaper L’Equipe said the latest revision will mean only ticket-holders for Philippe-Chatrier will be allowed access to the site, but they will not be confined to the main court and will be permitted to view the action across all courts.

France has recorded over 438,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 31,000 deaths, according to data from the Reuters news agency. The country yesterday registered a record 10,593 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, the highest single-day count since the beginning of the pandemic.

The FFT said: “Since the beginning of the health crisis, the French Tennis Federation has worked hand in hand with the state in order to meet the demands of the ongoing sanitary situation.

“The FFT will therefore assume the responsibility of organising the tournament with a new lay out. It is important for the sporting, social and economic life of the country that a major event like Roland-Garros can be put on while respecting health imperatives. Roland Garros 2020 will set an example by endorsing, promoting and defending its cherished sporting values.”

Sydney stadium reopening

The New South Wales (NSW) Government has announced that major sporting events at selected Sydney stadiums can increase crowds from 25% to 50% capacity, up to a maximum of 40,000 spectators, from October 1.

The decision is based on updated health advice and has been welcomed by the National Rugby League (NRL), which is set to benefit for games in its Premiership finals and State of Origin.

The NSW Government said Stadium Australia and Bankwest Stadium have supplied detailed COVIDSafe plans, which will allow the venues to host ticketed and seated-only events with increased crowds. Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) has also provided detailed plans and these are currently being reviewed by NSW Health.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “Our number one priority is the health and safety of the people of NSW, however it is no secret we’re also focused on firing up the economy. Safely allowing more fans at in-demand major sporting events will bring enjoyment, employment and help stimulate the NSW economy.”

Spectators who attend are expected to wear a mask when they are not sitting at their seat. The strict COVIDSafe protocols will see spectators sit in different zones with different entry and exit points, different hospitality areas and amenities to prevent mixing of spectators across zones and assist in contact tracing if an infectious person attends the event.

While spectators will be at a maximum of 50%, staffing will be at 100% to prevent crowding in common areas. The one person per four metre square rule will continue to apply in many areas of the stadium. A unique chequerboard seating arrangement and ticket allocation process will ensure physical distancing of participants when seated.

An Events Taskforce is working with NSW Health to assess increasing capacity at MacDonald Jones Stadium, WIN Stadium, Ken Rosewall Arena and Penrith Stadium.

The announcement comes with the NRL yet to determine where its 2020 Grand Final will be played. The October 25 game was initially set for the SCG as redevelopment of Stadium Australia, commercially known as ANZ Stadium, was due to start in July.

However, in May the NSW Government announced that it would no longer proceed with plans to upgrade ANZ Stadium, with funds to be redirected towards job-creating infrastructure projects in a bid to boost the local economy amid COVID-19.

NFL

The Tennessee Titans have become the latest NFL team to be given the green light to return fans to its stadium, employing a staggered process that will commence from the second home game at Nissan Stadium.

The Titans, who won their season opener at Denver Broncos on Monday night, will face the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday at Nissan Stadium, a game that will be closed to the general public following an announcement last month.

From that point onwards, the Titans’ October 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be open to season ticket members up to 10%, which is roughly 7,000 fans in the lower bowl and club levels. The October 11 game against the Buffalo Bills will allow 12.5%, or roughly 8,600. The October 18 game against the Houston Texans will allow 15%, or roughly 10,400.

After that, the Titans are scheduled to play two games at Nissan Stadium in November (versus Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts) and two games in December (versus Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions).

The team said capacity could reach 21%, roughly 14,500 fans, for these fixtures, which is the maximum capacity the facility can accommodate under current guidelines. Outside of the seating bowl, suites will operate at a limited capacity.

Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill said: “The health and safety of our fans, players and staff remains our top priority and we felt like a gradual capacity plan was the right call, knowing that we may need to be flexible as time goes on. We feel confident that our Safe Stadium Plan will give everyone a safe and comfortable experience as they return to our gates.”

Image: Christophe Guibbaud / FFT