The lure of face-saving television rights payments may be enough to produce a fan-free French Open this autumn as officials try to dance around various COVID-19 complications, ,

Federation boss Bernard Giudicelli dropped a big hint at the weekend to the Journal du Dimanche, with the French clay classic going even farther in its own direction after unilaterally shifting tournament dates from May-June to September without warning.

“We haven’t ruled out any option,” Giudicelli said. “There is the tournament taking place in the stadium, and the tournament on TV screens – millions of viewers around the world are waiting.”

             Bernard Giudicelli, President of French Tennis Federation Photo Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

Giudicelli said  that if the event could somehow be staged without spectators, the plan could perhaps save much of the anticipated millions of euros in TV revenue.

Officials began making provisional steps in that direction by refunding all monies paid for tickets to the original spring 2020 edition, clearing that administrative hurdle.

“Organising (the tournament) behind closed doors would allow part of the business model- television rights (which account for more than a third of the tournament’s revenues) – to go ahead. This cannot be overlooked,” Giudicelli added.

But of course, nothing has actually been decided: “We are working well, but it is still a bit early to precisely determine the schedule,” he said of a calendar complication with the in-danger US Open  scheduled to end on September 13.

“We positioned ourselves as far in the calendar as possible, anxious not to harm major events, so that no Masters 1000 or any Grand Slam would be affected.

“The turn of events seems to have proved us right.”

The Grand Slam calendar has become a shambles this edition due to the worldwide virus pandemic which has already resulted in the cancellation of Wimbledon.

 

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