Fans of the NFL are awaiting the league’s release of its 17-week regular-season schedule this week, and reports say it will have some notable omissions. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL is expected to call off all international games this year.
While understandable and perhaps expected, the league’s decision to forego its International Series games in London and Mexico City goes against its general philosophy of increasing its international reach.
According to reports, the NFL will be notifying teams of its decision Monday or Tuesday.
Originally, five international contests were scheduled for the 2020 season. The Jaguars were set to host two games in London’s Wembley Stadium, two more London contests were to take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and one contest was scheduled to be played in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca.
The decision to cancel international games this early in the year appears to hint at the idea that coronavirus precautions will have a significant impact on the NFL season.
At this point, there’s no certainty that the NFL season will start on schedule, and that games will have fans in attendance.
Many sports are in the process of gearing up for a comeback, although a return to normalcy is months away.
Dolphins Reveal Plan to Host Fans at Games
In addition to potentially canceling its International Series contests, the NFL is preparing to kick off its season by creating mock-ups of games with fans in attendance while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
On Monday, Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel revealed the organization’s plan to provide a safe environment for fans to watch games in person.
The plan begins with new entrances and entrance procedures at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. “We would have times to come in for security at different gates so people would be separated out in terms of when they enter the stadium,” Garfinkel said.
Another vital aspect of the plan regards how fans would leave the game. “We would exit the stadium much like a church environment where each row exits, so people aren’t filing out all at the same time in a herd,” Garfinkel said.
The proposed setup would have a significant impact on the number of fans able to attend games. Although Hard Rock Stadium fits approximately 65,000, only about 15,000 fans would be able to attend games under the new setup.
Miami is a leader in this aspect of coronavirus response after becoming the first public facility to earn the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s STAR accreditation, which displays its ability to implement infectious disease prevention practices.
“Working with the GBAC ensures compliances with critical guidelines for the highest standard of cleanliness, and it is our hope that other venues will follow suit as we navigate through these unprecedented times,” Garfinkel said.
NFL Aiming For September Start, February Super Bowl
When the NFL releases its regular-season schedule later this week, it’s expected to begin on Sept. 10. However, the NFL has already said it could alter the schedule if necessary amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The league has already begun preparing contingency plans, including playing without fans in attendance and pushing the start of the season back to October.
If all goes according to the original plan, the NFL is expected to host this season’s Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 7.
According to NFL rules, players are not yet allowed to enter team facilities. For now, teams are turning to virtual solutions for workouts and June minicamps.
When the season gets underway, the Chiefs are favored to defend the Lombardi Trophy after last season’s Super Bowl victory. Kansas City currently holds odds of +650 at FanDuel Sportsbook.