No fans in French sports stadiums before 2021: presidency

·2-min read
Scores are displayed after the friendly football match between France and Finland at the empty Stade de France in the Paris outskirts on November 11, 2020
Scores are displayed after the friendly football match between France and Finland at the empty Stade de France in the Paris outskirts on November 11, 2020

Fans will not be allowed to return to French sports stadiums this year, and when they do it will be with strict crowd limits depending on a venue's size, the French presidency said Tuesday.

A return of spectators "is not possible in December" given the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in France, which led the government to announce a new partial lockdown last month, President Emmanuel Macron told sports officials in a conference call.

But he said youth clubs might be allowed to reopen in December if the number of new daily coronavirus cases continues to decline, as long as reinforced measures are taken to avoid contagion risks, particularly indoors, his office said.

Macron also unveiled a 100 million euro plan for next year to finance a "sports pass" encouraging young people to take up athletic activities, for example by paying club dues or buying equipment.

The funds could prove a lifeline for amateur clubs in particular, which have been hammered by the health crisis.

A source close to the presidency told AFP that Macron will likely explain next week how and when France will emerge from its second nationwide lockdown, days before the 1 December deadline he gave when announcing it on October 28.

Retailers are hanging on for news of when they can reopen, while the whole country is anxious for hints about whether families will be able to gather for Christmas.

The source said that any easing will be "step-by-step", while Prime Minister Jean Castex said small shops could reopen as soon as November 27 if new infections fall far enough, MPs who had breakfast with him Tuesday said.

Government officials have indicated they hope to ease the lockdown from next month if the health crisis eases, in particular for hospitals dealing with a surge in intensive care patients.

dec-leb-jri/js/tgb/pvh