The Stade de France is set to be off limits for sporting and entertainment events for the entirety of 2024 heading into the Olympic and Paralympic Games, leaving the likes of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and French Football Federation (FFF) needing to secure alternative venues.
The news, first reported by RMC Sport before being backed up by multiple French news outlets, comes with the national stadium needing to undergo renovation work ahead of its role as the de-facto Olympic Stadium for the Games, hosting athletics and rugby sevens competitions during the Olympics and Para athletics for the Paralympics.
The FFR is set to be most impacted by the news as it will require alternative venues for the entirety of France’s 2024 Six Nations campaign. Indeed, the Stade de France has never been without Six Nations rugby since opening in January 1998.
Marseille’s Orange Vélodrome and Lyon’s Groupama Stadium have been lined up for two of the three games, according to RMC Sport. The former has previously hosted a Six Nations match – the 2018 encounter between France and Italy.
The National Rugby League (LNR) has already decided on the Vélodrome as the destination for the 2024 final of the Top 14, the top tier of domestic club rugby. Meanwhile, the FFF will also need to find new venues for France’s international games during at least the March 18-26 window, along with the 2023-24 Coupe de France final, which is currently scheduled for May 25.
The Stade de France is currently owned by the French Government through the Consortium Stade de France. Through an agreement with the consortium formed by construction firms Vinci and Bouygues, the state granted the management of the 77,083-capacity stadium to the two companies in 1995.
The FFR and FFF are under contract with the Consortium to host games at the Stade de France, and as such, will require compensation to find alternative homes. A figure of €9m (£7.98m/$9.65m) has been mentioned for the FFR’s loss of its three Six Nations games. The Consortium told L’Équipe that it has already written to the federations to warn them and says it is “still in discussion with the state and Paris 2024” to establish who will pay the shortfall for the early closure of the stadium.
Radio France said renovation works at the Stade de France include expanding the athletics track from eight to nine lanes, the installation of 5G technology and erection of additional giant screens. This will make the stadium unavailable for seven months.
France’s Court of Auditors last month stated its concern that the majority of venue use agreements for the 2024 Games had yet to be agreed, highlighting the Stade de France as a prime example.
A report submitted to the French government made 15 recommendations in total for organisers. According to French newspaper Le Monde, it stated that “only 11 of the 80 user agreements planned had been signed” at the start of November 2022. The Court called for these agreements to be signed in early 2023, highlighting “an operational risk and a financial risk”.