Even the contrary decisions of the defense council against the Covid-19, at the Elysee Palace, do not weaken the optimism of Waldemar Kita. “I trust the government, repeats again the president of the Football Club of Nantes (FCN). At the start of the school year, I envision my stadium being full and not otherwise. “ The Franco-Polish businessman will however have to be right: the next Ligue 1 match in his Beaujoire stadium (38,000 seats), at the end of August, will not be sold out.
As an extension of the defense council, which met on Friday July 24 at the Elysee Palace, the government drafted and published on Tuesday July 28 a new decree which maintains a limit on gatherings to five thousand people in sports grounds until ‘to August 31. With a novelty, however: the department prefects will be able to “Exceptionally grant exemptions” from August 15, for “Several matches of the same sports club, organized in the same stadium. “
Considered in particular to obtain a higher tonnage “The general health situation and that of the territories concerned” and “The measures implemented by the organizer” to fight against the spread of Covid-19. The spectators must all be seated and wear a mask, a distance seat must also separate the groups which must have a maximum of 10 people.
This maintenance of the framework and these potential exemptions are far from satisfying the bosses of clubs, leagues and other federations who, like the Minister for Sport, Roxana Maracineanu, hoped for an authorization to receive if not total, like Waldemar Kita, but at least proportional to the capacities of the speakers.
After the 2019-2020 season was interrupted in the spring to contain the spread of the coronavirus, executives are already worried about the prospects for the next one, and are biting what few nails they have left watching a flight fly away. good part of their ticket office.
“The ticket office is 85% of our revenue”
President of the Section Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), playing in Rugby Top 14, Bernard Pontneau draws up an assessment that is as clear as it is hopeless: “The signal sent [par le décret] is that we will be in deficit. ” Listening to him, partial access to the stands will cause “Miraculous financial holes and catastrophes”, and condemn the clubs of the oval in a few months.
“Rugby covers its costs when it manages to operate in a conviviality market, by organizing those social gatherings that are the matches. With us, the ticket office is 85% of our revenue, he recalls. In case of closed session, it was definitely over. With this gauge of five thousand people, we are not told a sudden death, but a slow death. “
To keep his club alive, Bernard Pontneau intends to convince the prefect to issue him the precious exemption introduced by the new decree, dreaming of quickly welcoming ten thousand people to the Hameau (eighteen thousand seats).
” In September [le Top 14 doit théoriquement reprendre le 5 septembre], we will end up with a context where the local brewing will be finished with the end of the holidays. Our region has rather been spared by the coronavirus, we have always been in the green. These parameters will be positive to discuss the gauge ”, he wants to believe.
The torment of Pau is no exception in a sport dependent on income derived from the presence of spectators in the stadiums and vulnerable to any measure liable to limit entry.
“What is a strength of rugby in usual times – this model not dependent on television rights and which is based on the sale of services which are the charm of the discipline – becomes a real weakness when you can no longer put more than five thousand people in the stadiums, confirms Christophe Lepetit, head of economic studies at the Limoges sports law and economics center. The economy of rugby will be challenged on two fronts: ticketing revenue and partnerships. “ Respectively 13% and 48% of the operating income of the Top 14 clubs during the 2018-2019 season.
“The gauge will not be painless for football”
The first French sport to experience competition in front of a small audience, Friday July 24 during the Coupe de France final, football spoke less about the financial setbacks caused by this measure than on its refusal by the supporters’ clubs. Would the round ball be better immune than its oval counterpart against the eddies on the ticket office?
Admittedly, the sale of seats only represented 8% of the revenues drawn by Ligue 1 clubs during the 2018-2019 season. Very far from the balance of transfers (25%) and audiovisual rights (36%), even more lucrative as of August.
“But the gauge will not be painless for football either., notes Christophe Lepetit. The spectators are totally part of the sporting spectacle. What you sell is a global product, with what is happening on the ground but also in the stands. “
A study published by the representative union of Ligue 1 Premier League clubs, with the assistance of the audit firm Ernst & Young, estimates at 77.5% the share of sponsors ready to maintain their budget in the event that the “gauge” is maintained. of the five thousand ”until December, against 93% if the stadiums recovered their full capacity upon resumption.
The same analysis, which predicts “Between 659 million and 951 million euros” potential loss of turnover for the professional football sector over the 2020-2021 season, also alert on the thousands of direct or indirect jobs threatened, a good part directly related to the reception of the public (services, security, etc. .). The football funds will therefore not be insensitive to the last decree. “We often hear that there is too much money in football, but it’s completely biased, reframes Luc Arrondel, economist and research director at CNRS. Compared to what it arouses enthusiasm and passion, this sport does not stir much, but thirty thousand people depend on it in France. “
In Nantes, Waldemar Kita is still not resigned. “In a stadium, there are four stands. If we are logical, we make four times five thousand people “, proposes the one who estimates the losses at 500,000 euros for each match played in a “gauged” Beaujoire stadium.
Half philosopher, half economist, the president of the FCN invites the government to review its strategy in the face of Covid-19: “We have to live with this virus and organize ourselves. We cannot forbid doing everything. There is the sanitary. But there is also the economy, which risks losing its way. “