NFL Unveils 2020 Schedule But Questions Persist

NFL football on field

Are you ready for some football?

The National Football League’s 101st season begins in prime time on Sept. 10 as the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans in a rematch of the American Football Conference Divisional playoffs, according to the NFL.

Or will it?

“In preparing to play … we will continue to make our decisions based on the latest medical and public health advice, in compliance with government regulations, and with appropriate safety protocols to protect the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel, and our communities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

He added the league is prepared to make adjustments as it did during the off-season in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual off-season program, and the 2020 NFL Draft.

CNBC obtained a copy of a memo Goodell sent to teams notifying them protocols must be in place by May 15 before practice facilities open. The order said teams must adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear face masks while in team workplaces, the news service reported.

The 17-week, 256-game regular-season schedule is expected to conclude with 16 division games on Sunday, Jan. 3, the commissioner said.

But not everyone is so sure play can commence on the NFL’s schedule.

In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Gil Fried, chairman of the University of New Haven’s sport management program, said a number of variables will be at play on how sports might look on the heels of COVID-19. 

For one, he said, the average width of a seat in an arena is about 18 to 21 inches. Those metrics make social distancing impossible.

“It’s not you might need to have a seat on either side of you that’s free. It might be two seats on either side and then one in front, one behind.”

The other factor, Fried said, is the fact that the average baseball fan is over 50.

“That’s the demographic that’s being hit the most by the virus,” he said, “and if you are looking at fans that are in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s, they’re going to be the most scared. So you have to overcome the mental side of this for fans. And that might be difficult.”

PYMNTS research has also revealed that consumers think it will take much longer to resume their pre-COVID daily activities such as going to work, taking business or family trips, going to the store, going to the gym, eating out or going to a sporting event or concert.