Will there be fans at NFL games in 2020? Team-by-team attendance & ticket policies during COVID-19

If you’re having trouble keeping track of the NFL teams that will allow fans in their stadiums for games during the 2020 season and those that will not, you are not alone. Bills coach Sean McDermott and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer are just as frustrated.

“I think it’s honestly ridiculous that there will be, on the surface, what appears to be a playing field that’s like that — inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums,” McDermott told media members on Aug. 24. Said Zimmer a few days prior: “It’s going to be very hard because some stadiums they’re allowing people in and it looks like we’re not going to have any fans in there early, which really stinks because we have unbelievable fans, and they make that place rocking every Sunday.”

The 2020 NFL fan attendance spectrum of which McDermott and Zimmer speak is massive. Some teams like the Raiders have already announced they will not host fans at any of their eight home games this season. Others like the Cowboys have announced plans to let fans attend the games at varying percentages of stadium capacities.

The is the result of the NFL allowing each of its 32 teams and those organizations’ local officials to make the calls on whether to let fans attend pro football games amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The league has established on-field protocols in an effort to keep players and team/league personnel safe from the virus, but the situations in the crowds of its 30 stadiums are in the hands of the locals.

“It’s not surprising that there are regional variabilities, because obviously there are differences in the state of the pandemic and the state of the infection as you move across the country,” said NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills on a recent media conference call. “So the fact that there’s not one-size-fits-all approach shouldn’t be surprising given the medical situations across the league.”

Below are the latest developments regarding the fan attendance policies for all 32 teams in 2020 as the Sept. 10 NFL season-opener approaches. They obviously are subject to constant change.

Fans at NFL games in 2020

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals in late July sent a letter to season ticket holders stating all previous sales for 2020 had been voided. “It is not clear at this point how many spectators — if any — will be permitted to attend Cardinals home games in 2020,” the letter read. “We are working closely with the state of Arizona and know that any decision regarding spectators attending games will be made with extraordinary care and the highest regard for public health and safety.”

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons on Aug. 17 announced they will play their two September home games without fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team said it will “continue to collaborate with national and local health officials in the coming weeks before deciding on fan attendance at events scheduled later in the fall.”

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens on Aug. 24 announced they will not host fans at M&T Bank Stadium for “at least the initial part of the 2020 season.” The team’s plan to allow up to 7,500 fans was rejected by the offices of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Bernard Young. “We will remain in communication with local and state officials, working carefully to create appropriate measures that might eventually permit a limited number of fans at home games this season,” the team said.

Buffalo Bills

New York state guidelines currently prohibit fans from attending sporting events. As of late July, however, the Bills were “in the process of planning for the possibility of a limited amount of spectators being able to attend games for the 2020 season.” The team already deferred all season ticket memberships to 2020.

Carolina Panthers

North Carolina’s current COVID-19 restrictions prohibit outdoor gatherings of 25 or more people, though the Panthers have been working with local health officials to potentially host fans at Bank of America Stadium in the event that restriction is lifted.

Chicago Bears

The Bears on Aug. 17 announced they and the City of Chicago had agreed not to allow fans at Soldier Field in 2020. The team did leave room for a possible change in the policy moving forward: “The team and City will continue to monitor the environment and believe there can be a sound plan in place to bring fans back to Soldier Field once it is deemed safe and appropriate. Until then, Bears home games will not include in-person fans.”

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals on July 10 announced a plan to host fans at Paul Brown Stadium at a “greatly reduced” capacity “if the team gets approval.” According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Ohio governor’s office has been in communication with the Bengals and are considering their proposal.

Cleveland Browns

Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam on Aug. 21 told reporters they are working with local officials on a plan that would allow up to 20 percent of FirstEnergy Stadium’s seating capacity. “We feel good about that opportunity,” Jimmy Haslam said. “Obviously, the final decision is up to the governor, but we are ready and excited to go, and I think the City of Cleveland feels the same way.”

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys on Aug. 13 announced they would host fans at AT&T Stadium in 2020 at a “limited” stadium capacity. It’s not yet clear how many people will be allowed at Cowboys home games. “Fans are required to practice social distancing inside and outside of AT&T Stadium, including parking lots, entry queues and seating,” the team said. “With 15 dedicated entries and exits, in addition to the 3 million square feet of club, concourse and corridor space, fans will have ample space to practice social distancing. Weather permitting, AT&T Stadium’s unique retractable roof and end zone door design gives the ability to maximize fresh air flow throughout the building, along with the capability of circulating 840,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of fresh air through its mechanical system.”

Denver Broncos

The Broncos on Aug. 21 announced they would play their season-opener against the Titans at Empower Field at Mile High without fans in attendance. The team left room for that policy to change: “Our organization remains hopeful that we can host a limited number of fans on a gradually increasing basis beginning early this season. Taking a careful, measured approach with attendance will allow us to evaluate and adjust all COVID-19 safety enhancements before moving forward.”

Detroit Lions

The Lions on Aug. 21 announced they will not host fans at Ford Field for their first two home games of the season. “The Lions’ third home game is November 1 against the Indianapolis Colts,” the team said. “Whether fans can attend that or any other 2020 season games will continue to be evaluated while working diligently with healthcare officials at every level, as well as Governor Whitmer’s office.”

Green Bay Packers

The Packers on Aug. 6 announced that Lambeau Field will not host fans at the first two home games this season. “The Packers’ third home game is on Nov. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings,” the team said. “Whether fans can attend this game and others later in the season will depend on the status of the virus.” President and CEO Mark Murphy previously had estimated a maximum 10,000 to 12,000 fans for any games at which they are allowed.

Houston Texans

The Texans on Aug. 14 announced that that NRG Stadium will not host fans for their home-opener against the Ravens on Sept. 20. Whether fans can attend other home games later in the season will depend on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the greater Houston area, which is currently at the highest threat level (RED),” the team said. “If the Texans transition to hosting fans at home games later in the season, Season Ticket Members who made the decision to opt-in for the 2020 season will receive instructions about the ticket-purchasing process at that time.”

Indianapolis Colts

With the caveat that everything is subject to change, the Colts on July 24 announced a plan that would allow fans at Lucas Oil Stadium at a maximum of 25 percent capacity. The team was offering two half-season plans, with Plan A including games against the Vikings, Ravens, Texans and Titans and Plan B including games against the Jets, Bengals, Packers and Jaguars.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars on July 10 announced their plan to host fans at “approximately 25 percent” of TIAA Bank Field’s capacity. “Once the season begins, any future increase in capacity will depend on developments on the health and safety front,” the team said.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs on Aug. 17 announced their “plans for a reduced capacity of approximately 22 percent to kick off the 2020 season.” Said the team in a release: “As the season progresses, the club will follow the guidance of local officials and public health experts, with the potential that local regulations will allow for different capacities at different points during the season. Future on-sale dates and details will be communicated once confirmed throughout the season.”

Las Vegas Raiders

Raiders owner Mark Davis on Aug. 3 announced the entire inaugural season at Allegiant Stadium would be played without fans in attendance. “This decision is based on our commitment to protect the health of our fans and the entire community in response to the coronavirus pandemic affecting us all,” Davis wrote in a letter.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ attendance policy for 2020 is expected to be the same as that of the Rams, who on July 21 announced the brand-new SoFi Stadium “will be at limited or no capacity in 2020 and season tickets will not be possible for the 2020 season.” 

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams on July 21 announced the brand-new SoFi Stadium “will be at limited or no capacity in 2020 and season tickets will not be possible for the 2020 season.” 

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins on Aug. 24 announced a limited stadium capacity for their home opener. “A maximum of 13,000 fans will be allowed at the first regular season home game on September 20 when the Dolphins face the Buffalo Bills,” the team said. Added Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel: “We’re happy that our elected officials recognize the attention to detail and diligence that we’ve put into creating a safe environment and that they made the decision to move forward with a 13,000-capacity stadium at this time.”

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are hoping to have fans attend games in 2020 at roughly 20 percent of U.S. Bank Stadium’s capacity, but team vice president Lester Bagley told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the Vikings are still “in talks” with Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health.

New England Patriots

Gillette Stadium officials on Aug. 18 confirmed the Patriots’ first two home games of 2020 will be played without fans. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration did not approve the Patriots’ plan to allow 20 percent of Gillette’s capacity. “We’ve had conversations with them and with the Red Sox,” Baker said (via Boston.com), “and we’ve basically said, ‘Look, we’re focused at this point on schools, and wouldn’t plan to do anything with respect to anything like that until we get much farther into the fall.”

New Orleans Saints

The Saints on Aug. 12 announced their first game of the season on Sept. 13 against the Buccaneers will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium without fans. The team also said it is “unlikely” it will be able to host fans at its second home game, against the Packers on Sept. 27. “Unfortunately, at this time, the trends across our state and region do not meet the standards of health and safety we have established with our healthcare and government partners to host fans in the stadium for the first home game,” the team said. “While state numbers are trending in the right direction, further mitigation of cases is needed and a reduced infection rate is required for the team to welcome back its fans.”

New York Giants

Under the order of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, neither the Jets nor the Giants will be allowed to host fans at MetLife Stadium “until further notice.”

New York Jets

Under the order of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, neither the Jets nor the Giants will be allowed to host fans at MetLife Stadium “until further notice.”

Philadelphia Eagles

The City of Philadelphia in mid-July prohibited outdoor events involving more than 50 people through early 2021, but Eagles games could become an exception. “This is a fluid situation, and this policy is under constant review,” city officials said on July 15. “Discussions between the City and the Eagles are ongoing. As the season approaches, the Eagles will continue to communicate directly with their season ticket members and fans.”

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have not announced whether fans will be able to attend games at Heinz Field in 2020. “If it is determined that fans are permitted to attend games, it is highly likely that seating capacity will be greatly reduced to allow for social distancing and other safety measures,” the team wrote in an early-August letter to season ticket holders (via SB Nation). “It will also be necessary to create seating groups or ‘pods’ to allow for social distancing between various groups while seated.”

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers on July 8 announced they had sent an email to season ticked holders “in preparation for expected reduced capacity for 49ers games at Levi’s Stadium in 2020.” The team has not confirmed whether fans will be allowed to attend games, and if so, at what specific capacity.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks on Aug. 19 announced the first three games (vs. Patriots, Cowboys and Vikings) at CenturyLink Field this season will be played without fans. “While we are hopeful that conditions will improve as the season moves forward, we will continue to follow the lead of public health and government officials to make future decisions about having fans in attendance,” the team said.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers in late July sent a letter to season ticket holders (via the Tampa Bay Times) that stated: “Unfortunately, we will be unable to fairly re-seat the entire season pass member base across a limited number of seats. Therefore, we are currently working to determine a capacity that is safe for our fans, staff and players.”

Tennessee Titans

Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill on Aug. 18 announced the team’s home opener against the Jaguars on Sept. 20 will be played without fans. The decision was made by Nashville mayor John Cooper. “NFL football is a game meant to be played in front of a loud, cheering crowd and no one desires that outcome more than us,” Nihill said. “However, these are not normal times and as civic leaders in this great city, we understand and support Mayor Cooper and Metro Nashville Public Health Department’s decision today to delay welcoming fans into Nissan Stadium.”

Washington Football Team

The Washington Football Team on Aug. 12 announced all games at FedEx Field this season will be played without fans, but it did say “the decision will be re-evaluated by all parties should the situation surrounding the pandemic improve over the course of the season.”

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