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No Service: French Open crowds deemed to rowdy as alcohol ban initiated

French Open crowds deemed to rowdy as alcohol ban initiated
French Open crowds deemed to rowdy as alcohol ban initiated Copyright AP Photo/Thibault Camus
Copyright AP Photo/Thibault Camus
By David Mouriquand
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The French Open has stopped fans drinking alcohol in the stands in a bid to clamp down on unruly behaviour at Roland Garros. Is it the right move?

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If you’ve been watching Roland Garros this year, you may have noticed that the crowds seem rowdier than usual.

More than that, there have been complaints that etiquette has been thrown out the window and as a consequence, it’s throwing players’ games off.

This has led French Open tournament director Amélie Mauresmo to decree that alcohol will be banned in the stands.

"Alcohol has been allowed in the stadiums until now, but that's over," Mauresmo told reporters.

She added that the ban would be total, as the tournament has observed a shift in crowd behaviour since the dissolution of Covid restrictions.

The announcement comes after world No 1 and three-time champion Iga Swiatek chastised the crowd for making too much noise during points, asking them to be more courteous after her win over Naomi Osaka.

There were also complaints made by Belgian player David Goffin, who claimed he was spat at during his win over home hopeful Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard earlier this week.

“Clearly, it goes too far, it’s total disrespect,” Goffin said. “It’s becoming like football. Soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and there will be fights in the stands. It’s starting to become ridiculous. Some people are there more to cause trouble than to create an atmosphere.”

Belgium's David Goffin
Belgium's David GoffinAurelien Morissard/ AP

Goffin noted that things are worse at the French Open than at Wimbledon, the Australian Open or the US Open.

“Here, it’s really an unhealthy atmosphere, I think," he said. "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.”

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has called on fans to show “full respect to all players” after Goffin’s complaints, and Mauresmo has gone a step further by adding that security would be tightened on site and that those who cross the line will be removed.

Defending men's champion Novak Djokovic believes players want a "good atmosphere" as long as a "fine line" is not crossed, echoing Mauresmo’s words.

"I understand a player like Goffin the other day reacting, because I have experienced quite a few times those particular situations," said Djokovic. "I support a player standing up against people who are disrespecting and heckling him."

He added: "We're different from football or basketball but at the same time, you want a good atmosphere as a player. From my standpoint, I really want to see fans cheering and see that atmosphere. It's a fine line when that line is passed and when it starts becoming disrespectful towards the player.”

Spectators shout during the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris - 30 May 2024.
Spectators shout during the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris - 30 May 2024.AP Photo/Thibault Camus

The alcohol ban has not gone down well with certain fans, who believe that the ban is out of step with the other Grand Slams, where spectators are permitted to drink alcohol in the stands.

One journalist writing for British outlet Daily Mail stated that banning alcohol “feels like giving the whole classroom detention because of one child’s bad behaviour” - with reference to what David Goffin experienced.

“It forces fans to choose between watching tennis and having a drink.”

Quite the conundrum with regards to Mauresmo’s “new diktat”. However, alcohol including beer from mobile vendors, will still be sold around the Roland Garros grounds – so fans won’t go too thirsty.

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So, where do you draw the line? And is Mauresmo right?

Noise in the stands is nothing new in tennis, and it’s true that the French Open’s actions seem more extreme than those of other Grand Slams. That said, Mauresmo’s comments regarding a shift in crowd dynamics at live events since the pandemic feel spot on.

Whether it’s tennis, at gigs when crowds now have a tendency to throw objects onto stage or at the theatre, regular etiquette seems to have taken a blow. There seems to be an increased expectation when you go to a live event nowadays, with the lockdown still consciously or subconsciously playing on people’s minds. Be it an increased sense of entitlement as audiences gradually recover from the impacts of a pandemic, or the sense that crowds are harder to impress and less patient, a different mindset is present.

Have audiences forgotten how to behave?

They may have to get with the programme, as the upcoming Olympics in Paris will also be imposing a ban on drinking in the stadiums. However, VIPs will be exempt.

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Some things don’t change.

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