The NFL Has Made a $4 Billion Decision for This Season’s Hall of Fame Game

The 2020 NFL season was home to several sights that we thought we would never see in pro football. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all 269 regular-season and postseason games played out in cavernous stadiums with few — if any — fans allowed. That could change as early as this August.

The Hall Of Fame Game could have full attendance

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Since 1962, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game has served as the opening game for the NFL preseason. That was not the case in 2020, with the pandemic wiping out the entire preseason along with the game.

The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers are the two teams scheduled to take part in this year’s contest. Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker is confident that this year’s game will not only go ahead as planned, but mark an important milestone in America’s recovery.

“I think there’s a very good shot that we’ll be the first full stadium for football in the United States in nearly two years,” Baker told SI.com. “I think by the time we get to August, we’re gonna be ready to go. The vaccine is picking up … obviously the trend line is in the right direction right now.”

The Cowboys and Steelers were the scheduled matchup for last year’s game. According to Pro Football Talk, tickets for the game “quickly sold out” before its cancellation.

A special year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Even aside from the annual game, this will be a highly unusual year for the Hall.

Last year’s annual enshrinement ceremony, which would have officially inducted the 20-member Centennial Class, was canceled due to the onset of the pandemic. This year, Canton plans to hold ceremonies for both the 2020 class and this year’s class, a total of 28 inductees. If all goes according to plan, the 2020 class will get their turn on Saturday, Aug. 7, with the 2021 class coming the following day.

At the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we’ve got new technology that takes the temperature of as many as 70 people at a time as they go through the Hall. So there’s a lot of things we can do. We got a great operational team. We’re going to rely very heavily on the experts at the NFL.

David Baker, Pro Football Hall of Fame president

The NFL can stem $4 million worth of bleeding

Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, OH
General view of Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio | Joe Robbins/Getty Images

If this year’s Hall of Fame Game is truly the first pro football game in nearly two years with a full crowd, it will trigger one heck of a sigh of relief from the league’s owners. According to CBS News, the NFL lost somewhere between $3 and 4 billion in total revenue thanks to the lost gate receipts. That amounts to roughly a $93,750,000 to $125,000,000 loss per team.

Of course, not all teams would be affected equally. Some NFL stadiums allowed limited attendance, while others completely closed their doors. The Dallas Cowboys had by far the best in-person attendance of the 2020 season, drawing roughly 30,000 per game to AT&T Stadium.

While gate receipts are still important, today’s NFL gathers far more of its revenue from its television contracts. That won’t change in the coming decade, as the league prepares to renew its agreements with its network partners. According to CNBC, the new contracts are expected to pull twice the amount of rights fees into the NFL’s coffers.