With it increasingly looking like NFL stadiums won’t open to full houses in September, league officials are plotting strategies to manage the coronavirus for both player and fan safety.
One such mitigation measure, to be discussed today by owners: covering seating closest to field in order to put distance between players and fans. The seats could be covered with a mix of sponsor logos and messages the league wants to push. Keeping fans distanced from the players would be one way to mitigate risk for both. And, of course, it would generate some sorely needed revenue for the league.
The Washington Post is reporting the NFL is expecting 2020 revenues to be down some $3 billion in revenue this season if fans are not allowed in the stands. With many states moving forward with reopening plans, we’re looking at a number of situations where teams could play before 25 percent of capacity. The guidelines are all over the map at this point—in the most recent reopening guidelines, Illinois will allow 25 percent of capacity at sporting events, but that guideline is preempted by the Chicago city guideline that not yet allows fans in the stands—and will certainly change by September. But with cases rising in some NFL cradles (Texas, Florida, Arizona, California) and calls in some areas to roll back to more stringent guidelines in terms of crowds and mass gatherings, it’s impossible to say where things will stand in September, never mind the last month of the season.
NFL owners are slated to be briefed today on the current status of the 2020 season, and as we noted last week, medical experts are split on the proper course: Dr. Anthony Fauci says a “bubble” atmosphere—basically, a quarantine—would likely be needed for an NFL season to launch and succeed. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, isn’t yet sounding the need for such a drastic measure.
But drastic measures are already being contemplated. It’s not been formally announced, but multiple outlets are reporting the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio set for Aug. 6 will be canceled, as well as the Aug. 8 induction ceremonies. Coronavirus concerns are being cited for the cancelations. And don’t be surprised if the NFL preseason is altered as well.
Many of the assumptions made by the NFL a few months ago were based on a believe that COVID-19 cases would decline. But with cases on a sharp rise, that assumption has been shredded by reality.