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

Blake SchusterAnalyst IJune 25, 2020

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  A detailed view of the tarp displaying the Oakland Raiders logo that covers mount Davis seen prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at O.co Coliseum on November 9, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The National Football League has given its teams approval to tarp over the first six to eight rows of seats in each stadium and use the area to sell camera-visible advertisements.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Thursday owners had passed the motion. Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal first reported the move was under consideration on Wednesday. 

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.

Fischer noted the plan would help clubs recoup lost revenue from gate receipts this year as well as helping keep fans and players socially distanced this season. 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 PelisseroMike Ozanian of Forbes previously pegged that number at nearly $5.5. billion.    

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.