NFL Approves Covering First 6-8 Rows of Stadium Seats to Aid Social Distancing

NFL teams have been told they’ll be able to sell camera-visible signage to local sponsors for the first time during the 2020 season, a step one sales executive said would “significantly” defray pandemic-related revenue losses.

Under a plan shared with team presidents on Tuesday, the first six to eight rows of seating in every stadium — including on-field suites — will be off limits to fans this season. That move is officially to protect players, coaches and team staff from coronavirus exposure, but it would also free up that space to become lucrative sponsorship assets.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday owners had passed the motion.

The decision mirrors what the English Premier League has done with its lower level seats as the league restarted over the summer. However, the league is not allowing fans as it completes its 2019-20 campaign.

The move is not expected to affect seating arrangements in 2021.

Previously the league had banned most sponsors from displaying logos or signage 40 feet from the playing field, keeping the likes of Bose, Microsoft, Gatorade and Oakley among the only visible products during NFL broadcasts.

While ads will be offered to local businesses in each team’s market, there will remain restrictions in place to support pre-existing sponsorship deals at both the local and national level.

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith previously told agents the league expects to lose at least $3 billion in revenue due to the pandemic if fans are unable to attend games at all, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

According to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, the league will not impose a universal mandate on allowing fans in stadiums or the capacity at which they could be seated. Instead, the NFL will defer to local, state and federal guidelines and allow teams to make those decisions themselves.

Either way, sitting front row at the 50-yard line will not be an option for anyone who is able to score a ticket to a game this year.

Sources: Bleacher Report, Sports Business Journal

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