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France becomes first of 'Big 5' leagues to welcome back fans

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Paris (AFP)

The fans will return to French football stadiums before Ligue 1 does.

Domestic competitive football shut down in France in early March and the authorities decided to scrap their league season.

The other four leading European leagues all resumed their seasons in empty stadiums. This weekend, French clubs will open their doors, slightly, as they play friendly matches with a maximum attendance of 5,000 and under strict health protocols.

Some teams had already planned games for the weekend before the authorities announced that was the day stadiums could reopen to the public.

Two second-division grounds in the northwest of France will host matches on Saturday. Chambly host third-division Boulogne-sur-Mer and Caen are at home to Paris FC for matches which will probably draw only a few hundred spectators, at most.

The large-scale test will come on Sunday when Le Havre, another second division club take host the stars of Paris Saint-Germain.

Because the 5,000-limit includes teams, officials, journalists and security staff, between 4,000 and 4,500 tickets were made available to the spectators and were snapped up in a matter of minutes, according to the Le Havre club.

The attendance at the 25,000 seater Ocean Stadium will come close to the crowd at the club's last home match: 5,948 spectators for a second division match against Auxerre in March.

It should be the biggest football crowd to a match in one of the 'big five' European countries since March and will come close to the attendance at Le Havre's last home game

Spain's La Liga, due to end on July 19 without spectators, hopes to resume the following season with attendance at around 30 per cent of stadium capacity.

In Germany, where the season has reached a conclusion, authorities are considering a similar progression while the English may hold test events over the summer.

In Italy, the government does not plan to make a decision until "mid-July".

At all the games wearing a mask will be compulsory when moving around and fans must respect social distance unless they came with an established group of family and friends.

These will serve as a health "crash test" for France's two cup finals, which both involve PSG, and have been rescheduled for later this month.

PSG take on at Saint-Etienne in the French Cup on July 24 and Lyon in the League Cup on July 31, both matches will be played in the 81,000 capacity Stade de France before crowds of 5,000.

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