It looks like the NFL might be taking notes from the NBA in terms of fan experience for the 2020 season. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the league is considering virtual fans in stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL held a virtual draft back in April and have a similar template available for the regular season. The NBA has been using virtual fans for its restart in Orlando, Florida, and has received favorable reviews.
In order for this to happen, NFL teams will have to get on board. However, most teams are looking to have limited fans at their stadiums this upcoming season. The Atlanta Falcons recently announced they are allowing 20,000 fans to attend each game. On the flip side, the Las Vegas Raiders announced no fans will be allowed in their brand new stadium. Other teams are hoping to have 33% to 40% capacity, but with the growing number of COVID-19 cases occurring in most parts of the country, having fans in stadiums might be challenging.
The NFL is ready to have virtual fans is it's called upon. Fowler also reports another option is to have enhanced virtual advertising to fill vacant seats. Another interesting note is NFL games being canceled because of positive COVID-19 cases among players. A source told Folwer no algorithm exists for how man positive tests would force the league to call off a game.
When the NFL went the route to have the draft virtually, it was a big success as 55 million viewers watched the three-day event on multiple channels. "I couldn't be more proud of the efforts and collaboration of our clubs, league personnel, and our partners to conduct an efficient Draft and share an unforgettable experience with millions of fans during these uncertain times," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
This week, the NFLPA announced 56 players have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of training camp. Players had the option to not play this season because of the pandemic, which has led to a total of 66 players opting out this fall. No preseason games will be played this month, but the regular season will start on time. The first game will be on Sept. 10 when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Houston Texans.