As Ligue 1 kicks off on Friday, French clubs are wondering how to deal with an unknown presence at their matches: the fans.
Last season, Covid-19 restrictions meant matches were either played in empty stadiums or nearly empty.
At the end of June, the French government removed attendance caps, instead requiring vaccination certificates, negative coronavirus tests or proof of recovery from an episode of the disease.
Relieved that ticketing revenues can finally pick up after 18 months at a level close to zero, the French League (LFP) is following the government’s recommendations without adding any restrictions.
It is up to the clubs, and their local governments who can impose their own restrictions, to decide how to welcome fans back and how much to charge for tickets.
Some fields will be at full capacity from kick-off.
In Metz, up to 28,000 people can attend the visit of the Lille champions on Saturday. Strasbourg can fulfill its role when it welcomes Angers. Troyes has decided to operate at 100% capacity throughout the season.
On the other hand, attendance at the 22,000-seat Mosson stadium in Montpellier was limited to 13,500 for Sunday’s visit to Marseille, while Monaco limited capacity to 70%.
The sanitary paper check adds a third hurdle for fans entering the ground after ticket inspection and security screening.
“If people come within 30 minutes before kick-off, half the crowd will miss the first half,” said Jacques Cardoze, director of communications in Marseille,
In Troyes, Richard Rabahi, the club’s director of operations, said he was hiring “300 to 350 temporary workers” when Paris Saint-Germain visited on Saturday.
Other clubs are also hiring additional staff and some are not happy.
“It’s 50% more stewards and guards”, not to mention “costs related to the establishment of barricades, marking on the ground, hydro-alcoholic gel”, told AFP Karim Houari, the director of the Rennes stadium.
The LFP also recommends that clubs set up test booths in the stadium and create a dispute area with supporters who think they should be allowed in.
– ‘Exacerbated repression’ –
Some fan groups are not happy.
In Nantes, the Brigade Loire ultra group indicated that it would boycott the matches while evaluating the implementation of the health pass, which according to it is part of an “exacerbated repression”.
Mandatory masks and distance in the stands are “measures incompatible with our way of supporting”, they added.
Groups of supporters in Lyon and Saint-Etienne are also threatening to boycott the health package.
Even so, the demand for tickets suggests a pent-up appetite for gaming.
Yet as some clubs continue to sell memberships, others hold back, fearing a new wave of infections and the reintroduction of restrictions.
Nice says it has made a “record start with 9,000 subscriptions” sold. The Clermont graduates say they too have set a record. Saint-Etienne and Rennes also recorded strong sales.
Lorient only makes available to former subscribers due to “uncertainty” about the health situation.
Others, such as Angers, Nantes, Reims, Montpellier and Marseille have not yet sold subscriptions.
“We will launch the subscription campaign in the first half of September,” Cardoze said in Marseille.
This cautious approach has also been greeted with cynicism by some fans who point out that season tickets make games cheaper.
Angers agreed to give a 30% discount to former season ticket holders, but a group of supporters, Kop de la Butte, nonetheless called the prices “unfair” and called for a “boycott of home games. “.
© 2021 AFP