The NFL navigated the 2020 season about as well as could be expected given the COVID-19 pandemic. Every team played 16 regular season games and the playoffs went off without a major hitch, with a limited number of fans in attendance at Super Bowl LV in Miami.
According to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, fans shouldn't have to worry too much about getting tickets to games in 2021. That's because the league's expectation is to have games played in front of full stadiums next fall.
"We want to see every one of our fans back," Goodell said,
Roger Goodell said the plan is to welcome back fans in 2021. "We want to see every one of our fans back," Goodell said. "We expect to have full stadiums in the coming season."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 30, 2021
">per ESPN's Adam Schefter. "We expect to have full stadiums in the coming season."
Goodell's proclamation is certainly optimistic, but appears to be the NFL's goal heading into April. Plenty can change between now and September, but getting fans back in person would certainly be good for the game, provided that it can be done safely.
The commissioner's announcement added to a busy day for the NFL. Most notably, the league's owners voted to implement a 17th regular season game starting in the 2021 season.
The new schedule will pair a team from the AFC against a team from the NFC based on how the organizations finished in the 2020 regular season standings.
“The 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season,” the NFL announced on Tuesday. “The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021.”
If the league is able to proceed with full stadiums in 2021, a 17th regular season game could bring in a hefty amount of cash for the 32 teams. Goodell and his staff would welcome that after the worldwide pandemic caused revenue shortfalls in 2020.
Time will tell if the NFL can bring fans all the way back next fall, or if attendance will be limited to start the year.