The Miami Dolphins, Forbes estimates, would lose $172 million in stadium revenue without fans present, or around 39 percent of their total revenue (the 11th-biggest hit in the league). Suffice to say, owner Stephen Ross ideally would like fans to be present when the regular season begins in September, if distancing guidelines created by the novel coronavirus pandemic allow.
“I think there definitely will be a football season this year,” Ross said Tuesday on CNBC. “Real question is, will there be fans in the stadium? Right now — today — we’re planning to have fans in the stadium.”
“We all miss our sports,” Ross continued. “The NFL, I think, will be ready to go. I know we’re all looking forward to it. I know I am.”
Ross echoed comments made Friday by Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations.
“We are planning to have full stadiums until the medical community tells us otherwise,” Vincent said on the Team 980 in Washington. “Now remember when we’re talking — we’re talking about September, August, September. So there’s a lot that can happen here. So we’re planning for full stadiums.
“We also know that we have to plan for half stadiums, three-quarters. So we’re planning for all of these different scenarios. But first and foremost, we’re making every effort, working with the medical community, if we can have those stadiums with all people until they tell us otherwise when that time comes, that’s our plan. That’s our plan of action.”
Some teams, the Dolphins included, have contingency plans in place in case fans aren’t allowed into stadiums, or if fans are allowed but restricted in their activities. This month, Miami team president/CEO Tom Garfinkel unveiled how the team would encourage spectators to keep their distance: All fans would wear masks, and colored spots on the ground outside Hard Rock Stadium would indicate proper social distancing as spectators wait to enter. Food would be ordered from the seat and then picked up at the designated concession stand, eliminating the need for lines. Fans would be given a specific time to enter the stadium, and spectators would depart games row by row.
To accomplish this, attendance probably would have to be limited to well below the stadium’s capacity of 65,000, with around 15,000 allowed to watch live.
Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced only 50 percent of individual 2020 game tickets will be sold to the public so the team can be prepared for social-distancing scenarios.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend against large gatherings, and a number of states are following that recommendation as they continue reopening processes that may extend past the start of the NFL season. Pennsylvania, which is home to two franchises, says it will not allow any large gatherings over the entirety of its three-stage reopening process. (As of Monday, 49 of the state’s 67 counties had proceeded into the second stage of the process.) In California, home to three NFL teams, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said large gatherings such as NFL games will not be permitted in the state “until we get to herd immunity and we get to a vaccine.”
On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced that the state’s professional sports teams (the NFL’s New York Jets and Giants among them) “may return to training and even competition — if their leagues choose to move in that direction.” However, the state still is limiting the size of gatherings to 25 people.