Sacré bleu! The French Open banned alcohol in the stands after fans were called out for rowdiness

The French Open has banned fans from having alcohol in the stands at the Grand Slam tournament in Paris

Howard Fendrich,Tom Nouvian
Thursday 30 May 2024 17:48 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


One player said a French Open spectator spat chewed gum toward him. Another, No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek, chastised the crowd at the main stadium for making too much noise during points.

So the folks in charge of the Grand Slam event at Roland Garros decided enough was enough: Tournament director Amélie Mauresmo said Thursday that — Sacré bleu! — fans now are banned from having alcohol while attending matches. Which, not all that surprisingly, was not necessarily a huge hit with some of those paying for tickets.

“They should let us drink,” said Ana Malevukovic, a 37-year-old plastic surgeon from Serbia, standing near a bar selling a “garden spritz” outside Court Philippe Chatrier. “It's allowed everywhere else. Why shouldn't it be allowed at a tennis match?”

In another part of her effort to rein in the rowdiness at what is supposedly a genteel sport, Mauresmo — who won two Grand Slam titles as a player more than a decade ago — said security would be tightened around the site on Day 5 of the major tournament held annually in southwest Paris.

“Until now, alcohol was allowed in the stands. Not in every stand; not in the (VIP section of Chatrier), for example,” she said. “But now it’s over. Everywhere.”

This is not unprecedented in sports. Just one, more extreme, example: Drinking alcohol while in view of the field was banned from all soccer matches in Britain nearly 40 years ago following years of fan violence. Go to a game there nowadays, and the stadium concourses are packed with people guzzling beers.

Guilherme Kagaya, attending the French Open for the first time, sipped beer from a plastic commemorative cup on a walkway not far from Court Suzanne Lenglen, where he had been following along as Alexander Zverev beat David Goffin in the second round.

Kagaya, a 40-year-old from Brazil who works in advertising, took a glass-half-full view of the matter.

“For me, it's not a problem, because at least I can still drink outside the stadium,” he said. “It's actually more normal to have a beer outside.”

The ban follows concerns about the behavior of those watching the competition.

It was Goffin, a Belgian, who complained after his first-round victory Tuesday against a French foe on Court 14 — capacity: 2,158 — that he was “insulted for 3 1/2 hours” by the partisan supporters. The worst part? The piece of gum sent in his direction during the match.

“It’s a total lack of respect. I think it’s just too much. It’s becoming soccer. Soon there’ll be smoke bombs, hooligans and fights in the stands. I think it’s getting ridiculous. Some people are there more to cause trouble than to enjoy the atmosphere,” Goffin said, noting that he thought things are worse at the French Open than the U.S. Open, Wimbledon or Australian Open.

“Here, it’s really an unhealthy atmosphere, I think," said Goffin, who has reached the quarterfinals at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. "You can feel that people are talking to you and trying to throw you off balance with really harsh words. I’m not going to repeat what I heard.”

Mauresmo said she thought spectators at sports events have pushed the boundaries since coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People went back to the stadiums and were eager to relive that kind of emotion. And then we noticed, like with (Goffin) the other day, that there were some people who actually crossed the line,” she said. “So what I’d like to say is, yes, we’re happy that there’s an atmosphere, that there’s emotion, that there’s a crowd. On the other hand, we’re going to be adamant about respecting the players and the game.”

Swiatek, seeking her fourth trophy in five years at Roland Garros, dispensed with the usual “Thank you for cheering for me!” type of postmatch speech, and instead told the fans they were too disruptive during points when she was getting past former No. 1 Naomi Osaka in a thrilling three-set contest Wednesday.

“When you scream something during the rally or right before the return, it’s really, really hard to be focused,” Swiatek said.

“The stakes are big and there is a lot of money here to win. So losing a few points may change a lot,” she said. “So please, guys, if you can support us between the rallies — but not during — that would be really, really amazing.”

Osaka, for one, did not have an issue with what was going on, saying it was nothing compared to the sort of stuff one sees and hears during the U.S. Open, where she won two of her four Grand Slam titles.

“I thought the crowd was really cool. For me, I feel like those are the moments I live for. Also, it just makes me feel like the crowd is having fun, and I think at the end of the day that’s what I want the most. I want people to — like, no matter if I won or lost — (say), ‘Oh, I watched the match and I had a great time,’” Osaka said.

“For me, I didn’t have a problem with the crowd at all,” she added. “But I’m also used to the New York crowd.”


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