Jan 9, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders fans celebrate after the Raiders defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 35-32 to earn a playoff spot at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFL attendance rises above pre-pandemic level

NFL teams averaged 67,254 fans at home games in 2021, up around 1 percent over the pre-pandemic season of 2019, according to a study released Tuesday by the Sports Business Journal.

The league’s attendance had dipped three years in a row prior to the current season’s increase that occurred despite COVID-related fan fears and local restrictions that led to decreased attendance in other sports.

The league’s per-game average remains 3.6 percent off its high set in 2016, per the report. Having each NFL team play a 17th game for the first time ever prompted overall attendance to reach an all-time high of 18.2 million.

While the overall figures were positive, the attendance picture wasn’t universally rosy.

Nineteen of the 32 NFL teams saw their average attendance dip since 2019, with the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers experiencing large decreases. The overall league growth owes a lot to the Los Angeles Chargers’ relocation from Dignity Health Sports Park, which seats 27,000, to SoFi Stadium, which seats 71,500, and the Raiders’ move from 56,057-seat RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland to 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

In all, NFL stadiums were 95.1 percent full this season, a slight rise from 94.6 percent in 2019. The teams with the biggest attendance jumps from 2019 were the Bengals and the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers — a pair of franchises that added marquee quarterbacks in 2020, Joe Burrow in Cincinnati, Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.

Dallas led the NFL in attendance, averaging 93,421 fans in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys also finished on top with 747,368 fans overall. The Green Bay Packers were runner-up with an average of 77,991 fans, while the Denver Broncos were second with 686,129 overall fans.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings boasted the highest stadium capacity at 100.4 percent for their home games. Four other teams, the Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots and Denver, also finished at 100 percent capacity or above.

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; A general view of signage for Super Bowl  LV at downtown Tampa Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl LV to have 25,000 fans, 30,000 cutouts

Super Bowl LV will have 25,000 fans and 30,000 cutouts in attendance at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday in Tampa, the NFL announced Tuesday morning.

That first number, which serves as the smallest audience in Super Bowl history, is still an increase over the 22,500 the league previously had stated would be in the stands. Among the crowd on hand will be 7,500 health-care workers who have received the vaccine for COVID-19 as guests of the NFL.

The decision to allow fans to attend Super Bowl LV was made in accordance with public health officials, the Florida Department of Health, and area hospitals and health care systems. Florida does not have an attendance limit for sporting events during the coronavirus pandemic.

Per an NFL spokesman, fans will be presented with masks and hand sanitizer prior to entering the game pitting the Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fans will be required to wear the face coverings throughout the game.

–Field Level Media

Aug 25, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; General overall view of Seattle Seahawks logo at CenturyLink Field during a NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks: No fans for Week 8 home game vs. 49ers

The Seattle Seahawks announced Thursday that their Week 8 clash against the visiting San Francisco 49ers will be held without fans in attendance.

The Seahawks have played their first three home games without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“After careful consideration with public health officials, the Seahawks will continue without fans in attendance for their Week 8 home game vs. the San Francisco 49ers on November 1,” the team announced on its official website.

“The Seahawks have been working closely with public health officials and Governor (Jay) Inslee’s office regarding the safest possible gameday experience, and will continue following their lead on future decisions about gameday. The team will communicate future decisions as quickly as possible.”

The Seahawks, who are off to a 5-0 start, have four more home games remaining this season. They will host the Arizona Cardinals (Nov. 19), the New York Giants (Dec. 6), New York Jets (Dec. 13) and Los Angeles Rams (Dec. 27).

–Field Level Media

Dec 8, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; A general view of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome reflected in a downtown New Orleans building before the game between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Saints to allow fans at home games

After talk of finding a new city for their home games to have fans in attendance this season, the New Orleans Saints can stay put at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and gradually build up their spectator counts.

Thanks to an agreement between the team and New Orleans’ mayor, LaToya Cantrell, doors will open to 3,000 fans on Sunday when the Saints host the Carolina Panthers.

Assuming that coronavirus numbers in New Orleans remain stable, Superdome attendance can rise to 6,000 for games in November and 15,000 in December.

The city boasts one of the lowest rates of positive COVID-19 tests in the country, about 1 percent, according to New Orleans television station WWL’s website.

Calling it a “pilot exercise,” Cantrell said the agreement with the Saints is “consistent with the city’s Phase 3 re-opening.”

“The way forward towards additional expansion depends on the current trends remaining stable. An outbreak or a sudden increase in community spread would be reason to pause,” she added.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said that in addition to protocols and safety measures at the Superdome, the city “will also be strictly enforcing crowd gatherings throughout the Central Business District and French Quarter on game days to ensure all city regulations are being observed.”

In previous home games, the Saints were limited to 750 team staff and players’ family members.

The Saints are the 19th NFL franchise to have at least some spectators from the public at their home games, according to ESPN.

New Orleans (3-2) is in second place in the NFC South, one-half game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) and one-half game ahead of the Panthers (3-3).

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2019; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; LSU Tigers defensive back JaCoby Stevens (3) greets fans after the 2019 Peach Bowl college football playoff semifinal game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

LSU to allow about 26,000 fans at season opener

The state of Louisiana will allow LSU’s Tiger Stadium to host fans at 25 percent capacity in the 2020 season. No tailgating will be allowed.

The stadium holds about 102,000 people, translating into an attendance cap of just less than 26,000 as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“While this season is undoubtedly starting out differently from a normal football season, with COVID keeping all of us from celebrating together, nothing can dim the support we have for our LSU Tigers,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday.

LSU, the reigning College Football Playoff champion, is scheduled to open the season at home against Mississippi State on Sept. 26.

Fans in attendance will be required to have face coverings and follow social distancing protocols.

“By all of us doing a few things differently this season, we’re going to safely play football with fans in the stands and that’s exciting for everyone who loves LSU,” athletic director Scott Woodward said Wednesday.

The decision to allow fans at LSU games comes despite Louisiana having the highest number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents of any state represented by a school in the Southeastern Conference. Louisiana has 153,433 cases since the pandemic began in the spring — 3,300.5 cases per 100,000 residents. Kentucky has the lowest rate — less than half that of Louisiana — at 1,534.33 per 100,000 residents.

The New Orleans Saints, however, will open the season without a crowd on Sunday when they host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

–Field Level Media

Dec 8, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; A fan holds a Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) sign prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals rule out fans in first two games; Cowboys undecided

The Arizona Cardinals announced Friday they will play their first two home games without fans in the stands at State Farm Stadium, while Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said no decision has been made yet for his venue.

The Cardinals said they are complying with current state guidelines that restrict gatherings of more than 50 people. If Arizona’s number of COVID-19 cases drops sufficiently, the possibility exists that some fans could attend games at some point, the team said.

“While we would obviously love to start the season in front of the Red Sea, we know this decision is the most responsible one and hopefully contributes to the continued decline of COVID-19 figures in our community,” the Cardinals told season ticket members in an email.

“We will continue to work with state and local officials in the weeks ahead to determine whether we may be in position to host a limited number of fans later in the season.”

In Dallas, Jones is thinking more optimistically.

Speaking Friday on 103.5 The Fan, Jones said AT&T Stadium likely will sell fewer than the 50 percent of tickets allowed in a ruling made by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“We know we are limited where our boundaries are,” Jones said. “More than likely there won’t be 50 percent capacity. But things are evolving. I would imagine we can have as many people out there as far as the demand to be out there as we want it. We’ll see how the lay of the land is as we get closer, and sell those numbers of tickets accordingly.”

The Cardinals are scheduled to host the Washington Football Team (Sept. 20) and Detroit Lions (Sept. 27) in their first two home games. The Cowboys’ home opener is set for Sept. 20 against the Atlanta Falcons.

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks with Washington Redskins own Daniel Snyder before the game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas will play before fans, Washington won’t in 2020

The owners of NFL East rivals Dallas and Washington are taking different approaches when it comes to opening the stadium gates this season.

On Wednesday, Jerry Jones told reporters that his Cowboys will have fans in the stands at AT&T Stadium in 2020. His remarks came after the Washington Football Team released a statement indicating their home games will be played with empty seats at FedExField unless the threat of COVID-19 spread diminishes.

Jones would not specify how many tickets the Cowboys will sell at the stadium, which has a seating capacity of 80,000 that can be expanded for special events. He said the team will follow regulations and protocols set by authorities in Texas and the NFL.

“It’s easy for me to justify for the long-term of interest in football and the long-term thing that competitive sports bring to the table and what it can bring to the country,” Jones said. “It’s worth it to make the effort for us to have a complete season and I want to do it in front of our fans.”

In its own statement, the Washington Football Team said that although it had developed a heath and safety plan in conjunction with state and local officials, 82,000-seat FedExField in Landover, Md., will remain without fans “due to the rapidly changing dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The decision could be reviewed if the risks of the virus’ spread decrease later in the season, the team said.

“We are fortunate to host the best fans in the NFL year after year, but the wellbeing of those supporters, along with that of our players, coaches and each and every member of our gameday staff is simply too important, and the current knowledge of COVID-19 too unpredictable, to welcome our fan base to FedExField to start the season,” said Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder.

“We were the first team in the league to recall our scouts and other personnel from the field back in mid-March and have been monitoring this evolving situation ever since. This decision was not an easy one, but after several discussions with federal, state and local officials — along with input from some of the nation’s foremost medical experts, based right here in the nation’s capital — we are confident that it is the right one.”

Dallas is scheduled to open its home schedule Sept. 20 against the Atlanta Falcons. Washington plays at home for the first time Sept. 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cowboys will meet the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 13 to christen So-Fi Stadium, which the Rams said earlier would have “limited to no capacity” for fans during the 2020 season.

–Field Level Media