You’d think the NFL would have learned from other sports leagues that have tried to start amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, they seem as discombobulated as ever with the season fast approaching. They recently announced that the entire preseason has been canceled, but they still have a way to go on topics such as economics and opt-outs.
Regardless, I expect them to work things out and have a season, and there’s a potential that fans could be allowed in stadiums at a limited capacity. The Falcons are one of the organizations leaving that door open, hoping to have 10,000-20,000 fans at this year’s games, and according to The Athletic, the NFL may require fans to sign a special COVID-19 liability waiver to prevent any potential lawsuits.
The article also states that the waiver is just part of several precautions the league will put in place in order for the season to go along as normally as possible. Other mandates the NFL is considering are requiring all fans to wear masks, prepackaged food, and stadiums to go to a cashless system (which the Falcons already have in place).
While these are currently just ideas, and there are many more restrictions the league will likely come up with over the next couple of months, one of the rules they have already put into place is that the first 6-8 rows be unoccupied, ensuring player safety. These rows will be covered by a tarp, which can be used for advertising purposes.
As the weeks pass, the picture will become clearer of what to expect when attending NFL games this year. Sanitizing stations should be readily available, and constant cleaning by employees will be critical. However, the NFL seems to be the first league prepping to have fans in their stadiums.
It’s going to look different, and it will undoubtedly feel a little weird, but we are at the point where executives must find a way for fans to come to games and feel safe while doing so. I’d show up in a full hazmat suit if it meant I could watch my favorite team play in person, so I’m ecstatic that the NFL isn’t folding and just accepting that there won’t be any fans. Instead, they are attempting to develop a plan, and it could pave the way for fans of all sports to return to stadiums around the country.