The Denver Broncos will allow fans at their next home game Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High with limited capacity. Photo courtesy of Marcel (@freetousesounds) from Unsplash.
By Jonathan Ghattas, Staff Reporter
Despite many believing the NFL season would not be possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league kicked off its 101st season in typical fashion Sept.10th, as the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs hosted the first game of the season against the Houston Texans. Unlike other ring ceremonies from the past, the Chiefs did not have the luxury to celebrate in front of their usual sold-out crowd for this season opener. Instead, the team allowed a limited number of fans into Arrowhead Stadium, making them one of the very few teams to do so.
Following guidelines set by the NFL, and with the approval of local government and public health officials, the Chiefs allowed 22% of their stadium’s capacity to be filled for their home opener. The team set in place strict gameday guidelines for fans to follow, and scattered seating throughout the stadium in order to reduce crowded sections. Concession stands and all other sales within the stadium were operated on a cashless basis to reduce contact and further provide safety for fans and workers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the Chiefs as the only other team to allow fans into their stadium for their home opener (Sept.13) as they obtained approval from Florida’s state and public health authorities to host a limited number of fans.
The Jaguars will limit their stadium capacity to 20% of the normal attendance throughout the regular season, and will continue to do so until conditions surrounding the coronavirus have improved.
The only other NFL game to feature fans in the stands was in Denver where the Broncos allowed players to invite family members for the team’s Monday night home opener against the Tennessee Titans (Sept.14) as a test run prior to allowing fans into the stadium. The capacity was limited to 500 loved ones in an effort to keep up with safety measures. The Broncos plan to allow fans at their next home game September 27th against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and will limit the stadium’s capacity to under 10%.
As the season moves on, more teams are expected to allow fans back into their stadiums.
This included the start of week two, as the Cleveland Browns allowed 6,000 fans to their home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, which is just a fraction of what the stadium’s capacity can hold.
Joining the Browns in allowing fans were the Indianapolis Colts, who allowed roughly 2,500 spectators into Lucas Oil Stadium for their home opener this past Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys also opened their stadium doors to fans this past Sunday, as each team allowed a 20% capacity.
The NFL now joins Major League Soccer and college football as the only sports in the United States to currently host fans at games with limited capacity.
Top ranked schools such as Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Texas all held fans at their respective home openers (Sept. 12) with limited attendance, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the college football season.
More NFL teams have expressed that as the season progresses they would be willing to allow spectators back into their respective stadiums, giving fans a little something to cheer for during these difficult times.