Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, there have only been a total of six games played where fans were allowed to attend, and none of those games had more than 20,000 people in attendance. As the season wears on, the NFL is hoping to see those numbers go up. By the end of the season, the league is hoping that it will be able to fill Raymond James Stadium for the final game of the year: Super Bowl LV.
Although the Super Bowl is still more than four months away, the NFL has been busy planning and trying to figure out several key issues for the game, like how many fans will be allowed to attend. According to Jonathan Barker, the league's head of live events and production, the NFL is hoping it will be safe enough to sell out the stadium.
"Our hope is going to be to fill this stadium with fans." Barker said recently, via the Tampa Bay Times. "That's our hope."
Of course, with 26 teams still yet to host even a single fan this year, the NFL is also getting ready in case that's the route the league has to go: a Super Bowl with no fans, which is something that is very possible when the biggest game of the year is played during the middle of a pandemic.
"The smart thing to do is to prepare just in case," Barker said. "If we find ourselves on Feb. 7 where we're in different scenario, we're going to just make sure we're ready for that."
Super Bowl LV is being played in Tampa, which is a good thing for the NFL from an attendance standpoint, because Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been pushing for professional sports teams to allow fans to attend. Of the six NFL teams that have allowed fans to attend a game this year, two of them are located in Florida (Jacksonville and Miami).
DeSantis not surprisingly would like to see fans at the game.
"I really want to be able to show that Tampa is going to be a great place to host the Super Bowl," DeSantis said. "Showing this community is ready to host a great Super Bowl, having some fans there would've been a good first step. It's not where we need to be."
The lowest-attended Super Bowl in NFL history was the first one, when 61,946 attended the Packers 35-10 win over the Chiefs at Los Angeles' Memorial Stadium. If the pandemic causes the NFL to cut down on attendance for this year's game, it's pretty much a guarantee that Super Bowl LV will fall below that number, especially since Raymond James Stadium only has a capacity of just under 66,000.
Before the NFL can seriously think about getting fans to the game, the league is probably going to want to see the Buccaneers host a home game first. The Bucs had zero fans -- unless you count Brett Favre -- at their home opener in Week 2 and aren't expected to have any for their next home game in Week 4 (you can see the fan policy for every NFL team by clicking here).
Once the Buccaneers are ready to admit fans, the Tampa Sports Authority is estimating that only 14,000 fans will be allowed inside the stadium, according to ABC in Tampa. If that ends up being the attendance number at the Super Bowl, that cozy crowd would likely make for a calm atmosphere that you don't usually see at the Super Bowl.
The amount of people at the game will come down to what health experts and league officials are comfortable with.
"The league over the last few months has done all the work necessary to get all our clubs and teams up and ready for the season and we're going to apply the same thinking as we approach Super Bowl," Barker said. "Working in accordance with infectious disease experts, our own medical experts, the CDC, local health here in Hillsborough County, making sure everything that we do is in compliance with CDC guidelines first and foremost."
Although the NFL hasn't decided how many fans will be at the game, the league is definitely planning on holding its annual Super Bowl Experience, even if it has to have a socially-distanced look to it.
Super Bowl LV will be kicking off on Feb. 7 and will be televised on CBS.