Let’s start by ripping off the band-aid. No, the first Paris Eternal homestand is not canceled…at least not yet. There have been no official announcements from either the organization directly nor from the Overwatch League. Despite several outlets propagating that it is a done deal, it’s not really that cut and dry. There were even some players who tweeted that it was canceled, but they too seemed to have jumped the gun. As of noon today, even members of team management had not yet received word on whether or not the event would be canceled outright.
Government Bans on Gatherings
The French government first placed a ban on gatherings of 5,000 or more people in an enclosed space on February 29. There was no indication of when or if the ban would be lifted, as the country began to deal with their first bouts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The website for the homestand tickets almost immediately changed to say that further ticket sales were being “suspended by the organizer.” As cases began to build up, France decided to be even more proactive and furthered that restriction.
On Sunday, March 8, they announced that they would be banning gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, of more than 1,000 people. The only stipulation being that a larger gathering could occur if it in some way benefited France, such as demonstrations, public transportation or government meetings. Currently, there are a reported 1,606 cases and 30 total deaths within the country. However, the virus does not seem to be widespread, but instead, more concentrated in certain areas. It should also be noted that despite the restriction, some tourist attractions, such as Disney Paris, still remain open.
The host venue for the Paris homestands, Le Zenith, shortly thereafter posted a statement on Twitter that they were well aware of the new restrictions. They further stated that they would be working with event organizers to find solutions. It was then announced early on Tuesday that the venue itself would be postponing events scheduled through April 15. Unfortunately, the first Paris Homestand is slated to take place on the weekend of April 11 and 12. However, that does not necessarily mean that the show won’t still go on.
Moving to Another Venue
The Overwatch League and the Paris Eternal are now faced with a tough decision. They can either throw in the towel and try to reschedule the matches at a later date, like the Pacific East conference. Or they can try to find a way to still hold a homestand for undoubtedly the most ardent supporters. Should they decide to still try to have the event, their best option will be to look at another venue. A smaller venue, such as Espace la Grande Arche, that was used for OWWC 2018, could be the perfect fit. While it does have the capacity to hold much larger events, it can also be set up for smaller audiences.
The venue itself is already equipped to accommodate events of this nature. To date, the Paris World Cup Qualifier is still touted for being one of the most memorable events. The space itself provides adequate room for sponsors, merchandise sales and fan activities. It’s also conveniently located on a major metro line which makes it incredibly easy to get to. According to the venue’s website, there are also currently no events booked for that weekend.
Limiting Personnel and Attendance
Bear in mind that the 1,000 person limit does not just include fans either. This number would also have to encompass the 8 teams competing, the production crew and the arena staff. To keep within that limitation, teams could look at bringing essential personnel only. Already some teams have begun to do this to save on travel costs or in some cases, for health concerns. For example, until the Eternal’s own Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-Han turns 18, he has mostly been staying home while his team travels to each homestand. Another week, while most of the Eternal were sick with the flu, their Assistant Coach, Jeong “Levi” Chunghyeok stayed home to recover.
The league can also look to using volunteers that would have already planned to be in attendance to fill out certain roles, such as ticket-takers or ushers. The Paris Eternal’s incredibly passionate supporters’ club, the Rooster Club, would be perfect for such tasks. Again, it would just help reduce the overall number of people needed to run the event, while still maximizing the amount of seats for spectators. In return, members of the club would not only get to see the matches, but also be a part of history for their team.
The Current Situation
The best way to put it is to imagine that the Paris homestand is in a grueling Map 5 with COVID-19. It’s the third point, both sides have 99-percent and the overtime clock has been ticking away for 70 seconds. While the outcome looks quite grim, there is still the smallest fraction of a chance that the homestand will come out on top. Until then the best thing to do as a community is to stop the spread of misinformation and take the necessary preventative measures to keep safe from the virus. It would also be a good time to set up alerts for both the Overwatch League and the Paris Eternal Twitter accounts for when an official announcement is finally made.
This story will be updated as more information is brought forth.
Featured Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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