On Sunday, we learned that the postponed French Open could still be happening, just without fans.
Last Thursday, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) opted to reimburse tickets as opposed to transfer them to the new tentative date, one that may again be shifted to give players a break following the US Open. If the new date is confirmed, a new ticketing procedure will be put in place.
This reshuffling is yet another blow to this year's tennis season after Wimbledon was already been canceled for the first time since the Second World War. The US Open is still scheduled to take place in New York from Aug 31-Sept 13, but is also in question with a decision expected in mid-June.
Roland Garros, as the French Open is also known, is the driving force of the French Tennis Federation's ecosystem. The event brings in 260 million euros in revenue and that accounts for 80% of the organization's turnover.
The FFT's decision is being awaited by millions of viewers around the world, not the least being the 500,000 fans who usually attend the tournament. Organizing the event without the crowds would allow the organization to generate some revenue through television rights, which account for more than a third of the tournament's revenue.
The considerations could prove telling for the many sponsors of the high-profile event.
The gigantic banking group BNP Paribas (OTC: BNPQY) expressed in its latest quarterly earnings report that, although the company expects short-term challenges, it remains optimistic about the but long-term outlook in the mobile-payment market, similar to fellow sponsor, Mastercard Inc. (NYSE: MA).
Peugeot SA (OTC: PUGOY), which recently merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (OTC: FCAU) is still on track and expected to close by early 2021 at the latest with the Italian-American carmaker recently posting a net loss of $1.84 billion in its first quarter.
Dubai-owned carrier Emirates Airlines, the world's largest operator of wide-body jets and the fourth-largest in terms of passenger, reported a 21% increase in full-year profit in the 12 months that ended on March 31st. Of course, the company doesn't see that air travel can go back to normal in the next 18 months.
Other sponsors, like Lacoste and Accor (OTC: ACCYY), have been active in their contributions to the battle against COVID-19, the former by delivering 100,000 masks by mid-April that were made in its facilities in France while the hotel chain has made a point of catering to healthcare workers and all those on the front lines.
Given the challenge being faced by all parties, it's difficult to say what form, if any, Roland Garros could take this year.
The death toll from the coronavirus in France reached 26,310 on May 9. Paris remains in the ‘red zone' as restrictions are being eased for the remaining parts of France so the battle is far from won. The future is promised to no one- especially the events industry. Sports, on the other hand, has way too many nuances that will allow it to overcome the limitations imposed by social distancing.
While the French Open holds a special in the hearts of tennis fans, saving lives and protecting healthcare workers takes priority.
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