Several NFL teams have accepted the fact that the wisest course of action is to not have fans in attendance for games during the 2020 NFL season. This group includes the Las Vegas Raiders, New York Jets and Giants, Washington, and for at least two games, the Green Bay Packers.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no interest in being part of that group. The outspoken owner said his team, “plan[s] on playing all of our football games and we plan on playing them in front of our fans,” per reporter Jon Machota.
The NFL has not issued a league-wide policy, but is instead letting teams follow guidelines set in their region of the country. In Texas, the governor announced in June that professional and college sports stadiums could operate at 50 percent capacity. There has been no updated guidance since, but the University of Texas announced in late July it was looking at 25 percent capacity.
There is some talk of teams trying a pod system in which you get clusters of people who are willing to “cluster together” and you have clusters spread around the stadium, according to reporter Charles Robinson.
It seems odd the NFL is not imposing a uniform policy of no fans to maintain competitive integrity. At the same time, given the financial costs sports owners have been complaining about, it could just be that the NFL is willing to let teams do what they can to get as much revenue as possible during the pandemic.
The NFL could also decide that having stadiums half full or a quarter full will not significantly impact the competitive integrity. No fans results in changes of roughly 1.5 points in the point spread, according to DraftKings Sportsbook oddsmaker Johnny Avello. It’s a little less clear what a half or less full stadium would mean, but the NFL has some things to sort out if they want to avoid criticisms of unfair competitive balance.