The big question, now that the NBA Bubble is in full swing, is if NFL teams will allow crowds at games this season. The regular season is getting closer now, and there are still doubts concerning about whether or not fans will be allowed to grab a seat at the games.
The training camps are open, and the season is scheduled to start on September 10 if everything goes well. One thing that is true is that games without fans are not the same. So far, there is no consensus on the subject, and teams are approaching the issue from different angles.
Will NFL Teams Allow Crowds?
The answer to whether fans should be allowed into stadiums varies; it actually depends on where and when. Protocols concerning the COVID-19 pandemic are different from state to state, and some teams have stated they will allow a limited capacity of fans, while others have said they won’t allow audiences at all due to coronavirus concerns. Some NFL teams are worried about the impact this might have if outbreaks start appearing.
Some fans will have to wait to see how things play out in this regard. Various reporters were asked by ESPN to check with team officials about the situation of letting fans into stadiums, and there is definitely a divide in the way the teams think.
In the AFC East, we have the Buffalo Bills. Orchard Park Stadium has a capacity of 71,608 people and New York State issued a protocol last month that prohibits fans not only from attending live sports events, but also from being around the stadium.
The Miami Dolphins play at the Hard Rock Stadium, with its 65,326 capacity. The Dolphins are going to allow crowds, a maximum of 13,000 or 20% capacity, for the NFL home opener game against the Buffalo team on September 20. The hope is to allow more fans as long as the cases of coronavirus decrease. Season-ticket attendees will have priority on games with information in single-game tickets. All fans will be required to wear a mask along with other guidelines, like keeping social distance while seating.
In the same division, we have the New England Patriots. At Gillette Stadium, the capacity is 66,829. This team won’t allow fans at its regular games, at least for September, which includes two games against the Dolphins and the Las Vegas Raiders. Officials hope to have fans sometime later during the season, but this depends on local and state approval.
The Ravens Are Out; The Bengals Say Maybe
In the AFC North, there’s the Baltimore Ravens, who play at M&T Bank Stadium with a 71,008-person capacity. The team stated on August 24 that it won’t allow fans into the stadium, at least not for the beginning of the 2020 season. The Ravens had an initial plan back in July to have 14,000 fans. Then, a new proposal was made in which 7,500 spectators would be allowed in early August. However, due to recommendations by public health officials, the team decided not to host fans, at least for the start of the season.
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Paul Brown Stadium, with a capacity of 65,515, informed its season ticketholders that they will only host a “greatly reduced” audience in case the team is allowed to have fans during the season. Attendees will have to comply with already known protocols like physical distancing, wearing a face covering and avoiding tailgate gatherings. Fans can keep their season tickets until 2021.
The Steelers Welcome Some Fans
The Pittsburgh Steelers call Heinz Field home, and it has a capacity of 68,400. In this case, the Steelers plan to host a limited number of spectators, but they still haven’t determined the reduced capacity. The team also stated that fans who acquired single-game tickets through Ticketmaster and other websites had their transactions canceled and received a refund.
If the situation improves and the COVID-19 cases decrease even more, it’s possible that more NFL teams reduce or eliminate the protocols that would lead to crowds being allowed into the stadiums. However, despite the season starting in just over two weeks, there is still no clear picture of what’s going to happen.