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Report: 2020 NFL season will not have maximum seating capacity for fans

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San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

If there is an NFL season in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, there won’t be full stadium capacity for fans.

Sports Business Journal reported that the league has blocked off six-to-right rows of seating for every stadium, a move designed to “protect players, coaches and team staff from coronavirus exposure, but it would also free up that space to become lucrative sponsorship assets.”

It’s SBJ, so of course they explored this from the angle of the advertisers, and I might as well give you a little clip about what this all entails.

Sources said those seats will be covered by tarps that could include sponsor logos, similar to how EPL teams repurposed empty seating sections for ads during its return to play last week. The plan will be presented to owners at a meeting tomorrow, who are not expected to oppose it. An NFL spokesman did not reply to a request for comment.

There are restrictions designed to protect league sponsors. Team naming rights sponsors, local sponsors that don’t conflict with league sponsors, and local sponsors who also have national deals — such as Bud Light — will have the easiest time complying with the rules. Certain exceptions may be in play for competitive categories, one source said. It’s not clear where gambling companies fit into the regulations.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking across the United States, and this is all before the expected “second wave” in the fall and winter, which is exactly when the NFL season traditionally occurs. Players and staff have tested positive for the virus not just in the NFL, but also NBA, NHL, MLB, NWSL, college sports, and individual sports like golf, boxing, and tennis.

The league intends to play its games as originally scheduled, but there’s no reason to rubber stamp a guarantee with the impact this pandemic has had in the US. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL has scheduled a conference call on Thursday that includes teams reopening facilities and other COVID-19 related topics.

Preseason is less than two months away, although it’s possible we see those games cut in half.