The NFL’s response to COVID-19 has been uneven concerning in-person attendance. Rather than setting a league-wide protocol, the NFL allowed teams to decide whether fans can attend games. Some franchises are not allowing any in-game attendance, while others are capping attendance at a fraction of the normal capacity. Yet there is one game some fans will definitely be allowed to attend: the Super Bowl.
Of course, this year’s championship battle is going to look a lot different than usual, especially for those who plan to watch it in person. Let’s look at what we know about Super Bowl LV including where it will be held and how the coronavirus pandemic will affect it.
Super Bowl LV
NFL owners first voted on the site of 2021’s Super Bowl LV back in 2016, details ESPN. At that time, SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California was chosen as the stadium that would host the game. But construction delays pushed back the stadium’s completion. In 2017 NFL owners made a unanimous decision to move Super Bowl LV to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Even NFL fans who don’t follow the Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely know Raymond James Stadium, which also hosted two prior Super Bowls: Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, and Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, reports the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year’s championship game is officially scheduled to take place on February 7, 2021.
Limiting fan attendance
Since basically the season’s beginning, the NFL made it clear that they were planning to allow fans to attend Super Bowl LV. Under normal circumstances, Raymond James Stadium has a capacity of around 66,000 people. Of course, the expectation all year has been that the capacity for the 2021 Super Bowl would be a mere fraction of that number.
Until recently, however, the league hadn’t made an official announcement about the number of fans who’d be allowed in the stadium. Fans finally got a clearer picture on October 28, when ESPN reported that the NFL was planning to cap attendance at 20% of the stadium’s normal capacity. That would mean somewhere around 13,200 fans could attend Super Bowl LV.
That said, the NFL made it clear that the current plans are by no means locked in stone. In an official statement, the league stated conclusively that there “is no set capacity figure at this time as we continue to monitor the ongoing pandemic.” The 20% cap is simply a projection based on the average capacity limitations imposed so far this year at NFL stadiums.
Other restrictions for in-person attendees
Limiting the number of attendees isn’t the only restriction that the NFL will place on Super Bowl LV. Hygiene and social distancing measures will be strictly enforced. Among other things, that means that fans will be seated in pods separated by a minimum of six feet. Likewise, all fans in attendance will be expected to wear face masks.
Another big question has to do with the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The league has banned on-field entertainment for all games so far this year. If the NFL chooses to keep those restrictions in place, the halftime show may take place off-site. In other words, fans attending the game will not get to see it live.
Historically, the NFL observes an off-week between the last regular-season game and the start of the postseason. This year, however, the league may have to add a Week 18 to make up missed regular-season games. If that happens, the week off will be eliminated to ensure the February 7 Super Bowl remains in place.