Football is back, but the fan experience is much different this year. Due to the pandemic, NFL teams have been faced with the tough decision of whether to allow fans to spectate the games in-person or not. Since the states have the power to place statewide guidelines, each team has to discuss with their local and state officials to determine whether having spectators is even an option.
The NFL decided not to impose a league-wide mandate on spectators. When some NFL head coaches expressed their frustrations with this decision, the league did not see it as an issue. Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott expressed his frustrations to ESPN stating, “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.” However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated, “We do not believe it’s a competitive advantage . . . we want to invite our fans in if we can do it safely and we can do it with the full support of local officials.”
The Buffalo Bills released a statement informing the public that there will be no fans allowed in Bills Stadium for at least the first two home games of 2020. This statement came after New York State issued COVID-19 guidelines regarding professional sports competitions. The guidelines provide, “[N]o live audience, fans, or spectators are allowed to attend or [are] permitted to enter any professional sports venue, even if an outdoor venue.” The guidelines also prohibit fans from congregating outside the venue before, during, or after the event.
The Miami Dolphins are one of six NFL teams allowing fans in the stands during the home opener. Hard Rock Stadium will hold 13,000 fans, which is about 20% capacity, to spectate the game against the Buffalo Bills on September 20. The Miami Dolphins made many changes to Hard Rock Stadium to create a safe environment. Some things fans should expect if attending the game include: socially distanced seating clusters, wearing a mask when not actively eating or drinking, mobile touchless entry with designated entry gate and time, cashless concession experiences, contactless toilets and faucets, and no tailgating.
The Erie County Department of Health advised against attending the game in Miami. It also warned fans that if they do attend, they have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival home due to Florida being on New York State’s travel advisory. Although advised against, Buffalo Bills Players’ Josh Allen and Jordan Poyer expect nothing less from the Bills Mafia than to show up in Miami.