Fans returning to NFL stadia despite COVID-19 cases soaring
source: StadiumDB.com; author: michał
Though the numbers in USA are disturbing, it seems games held with fans haven't contributed to the recent surge in new COVID-19 cases. It's thus no wonder that more NFL teams are opting to reopen stadiums.
Though every week some of the states report record numbers of coronavirus infections, NFL teams don't seem discouraged. Quite the opposite, so far the experience with partial opening of stadiums has been overwhelmingly positive.
Obviously, for fans the goal is being inside and cheering for their team. For the team the goal is revenue, lack thereof being a real slasher to budgets. Keep in mind, this was supposed to be a crucial season, with brand new bookmakers' lounges to open in a number of NFL stadia to boost revenue. For example, since the recent merger of William Hill and Ceasars, the first brand has been increasing its presence in arenas across the US. But in order for this revenue-strong business to deliver on its promises, fans have to be inside and place their bets.
So far almost half of all 32 NFL teams have allowed fans to return in some ways. If we count stadiums alone, exactly half of them are partially open already (some teams groundshare, like in Los Angeles and New York). Although the extent to which they are opened varies very strongly, based on local and state-wide safety constraints. In almost all cases fans are urged to wear masks around the stadium and self-isolate by distancing themselves from people they don't share a house with.
With 5 weeks of games behind us, total attendance for the 2020 season has reached a quarter million tickets. In a normal year such number would be a disaster but during a pandemic you take what you can get. And some teams get quite a few fans. Dallas Cowboys, able to allow a fourth of their regular crowd size, lead the NFL turnout ranking with nearly 24,000 per game. With 3 games held with such crowds, no hotspot around the matchday crowd were spotted.
Five other teams have crowds of over 10,000 on average, the latest being Kansas City Chiefs, who only held their first match with spectators last week. It's thus no wonder that more teams are looking at perspectives of allowing people in. New Orleans Saints, unable to invite more than 750 people per game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, are even contemplating playing the rest of the 2020 season at LSU's Tiger Stadium, where well over 20,000 could be allowed.
One interesting exception is the Las Vegas Raiders. While they have one of the world's most expensive stadia in history, no-one is watching games there, aside from crucial staff members and players' relatives. Even the team's owner Mark Davis decided to watch matches on TV, to show solidarity with regular fans. As he said before the season, “if no fans could be there, I wouldn’t either”.