The Green Bay Packers announced on Thursday that fans will be barred from Lambeau Field for the first two home games of the season.
Assuming the NFL starts as planned amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Packers are slated to open their home schedule on Sept. 20 against the Detroit Lions and on Oct. 5 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Team president Mark Murphy said in July that the team hoped to host between 10,000 and 12,000 fans for every home game this season. The team is now holding out hope to host fans beyond the first two games.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to host fans for games later in the season, should conditions allow,” Murphy wrote in Thursday’s announcement. “We will continue to consult with community healthcare and public health officials on the pandemic conditions in our area. We ask our fans to continue to help by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing guidelines.”
Fans in stands in November?
The earliest the Packers would host fans under their new plan would be Week 8 against the Minnesota Vikings. They have a bye and two road games after the Week 4 game against the Falcons and are hoping that the COVID-19 situation improves enough to host fans for their Nov. 1 game against the Vikings.
A vaccine is not expected to be widely available by that date, which will present much colder temperatures in Green Bay and beyond.
Big money at stake
Meanwhile, stakes are high for the NFL in terms of ticket sales.
Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported on Wednesday that the four teams that previously announced that fans will be banned — the Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and New York Giants — are estimated to account for a $1.3 billion revenue loss on the primary and secondary ticket markets.
With the pandemic maintaining its grip on the United States five weeks out from the season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, it seems unlikely that any NFL team can host fans safely for Week 1.
The country is now logging more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths a day while accounting for 4.8 million of the world’s 18.9 million confirmed cases and 160,000 of the 712,000 confirmed global deaths as of Thursday.
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