For many sports fans it is the most awaited sight amid all the pandemic blues — the NFL returning. Sports shut down completely in early March as COVID-19 raged throughout the country, and many fans wondered if football would return at all.
In May, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said the league was “planning to have full stadiums until the medical community tells us otherwise.” But with the rising cases across the country, along with state and city officials trying to avoid outbreaks by banning large gatherings, the prospects of having a significant number of fans have all but dwindled.
As of Sep. 23, 20 teams are currently not planning to allow fans, citing various state restrictions. Twelve teams have committed to having fans inside stadiums, but all in a limited capacity and some not for several weeks.
While the NFL has generally left it up to the teams to decide if they want to have fans or not, the Center for Disease Control’s social distancing guidelines cap attendance to about 20-25% of U.S. venues’ full capacity. Many teams are ready to follow the guidelines and assess the situation on a week-to-week basis, which is contingent on the number of cases in their particular city indicating that the situation remains highly fluid between the teams and city authorities.
Consequently, the pandemic has upended ticket sales. The NFL stands to lose about $5.5 billion — or 38% — of its stadium revenue, based on 2018 league numbers, according to Forbes. The impact on each team will differ.
About 40% of NFL season-ticket holders who pushed their packages to 2021 demanded a refund, according to Sports Business Journal, pointing to further trouble for the league in the coming weeks. In response, many teams have started encouraging their fans to leave their money in their accounts by offering incentives like food and drinks discounts and priority access to playoff tickets.
Many players have opted out of the season, citing various personal and family medical reasons. In total, 66 NFL players announced that they will not be playing the 2020 season.
NFL Team 2020 Fan Attendance Tracker (Last Updated: 5:00 p.m. ET on Sep. 24):
Teams That Will Not Have Fans in Attendance:
- Arizona Cardinals (first two home games)
- Baltimore Ravens (until further notice)
- Buffalo Bills (for the first two home games)
- Chicago Bears (until further notice)
- Detroit Lions (through Oct.)
- Green Bay Packers (for first two home games)
- Las Vegas Raiders (for 2020 season)
- Los Angeles Chargers (until further notice)
- Los Angeles Rams (until further notice)
- Minnesota Vikings (for first two home games)
- New England Patriots (through Sept.)
- New Orleans Saints (testing procedures in Week 4 with family of players and staff)
- New York Giants (until further notice)
- New York Jets (until further notice)
- Philadelphia Eagles (until further notice)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (for the first two home games)
- San Francisco 49ers (for the first home game)
- Seattle Seahawks (for first three home games)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (for first two games)
- Washington Football Team (for 2020 season)
Teams That Will Have Fans in Attendance:
- Atlanta Falcons (will allow limited fans beginning Week 5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (no fans for home opener; will host 6,000 fans for following two home games)
- Cleveland Browns (capped at 6,789 fans for first two home games)
- Carolina Panthers (5,240 fans for the second home game on Oct. 4)
- Dallas Cowboys (21,078 fans attended home opener)
- Denver Broncos (no fans for home opener; will host 5,700 for second home game Sept. 27)
- Indianapolis Colts (capped at 2,500 fans)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (capped at 16,791 fans)
- Kansas City Chiefs (capped at 16,046 fans)
- Miami Dolphins (capped at 13,000 fans)
- Tennessee Titans (6,900 fans in Week 4; a tiered capacity approach thereafter)
- Houston Texans (15,000 fans beginning Week 4)