The Philadelphia Eagles will be playing in an empty stadium for their eight home games this season, potentially the first of many teams to officially bar fans from attending in 2020. That news came from city Managing Director Brian Abernathy, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. No Philly sports will have a crowd this year.
“The Eagles are still going to be allowed to play, although without crowds,” Abernathy said. “The Phillies will continue to be allowed to play, although without crowds.”
It’s understood every NFL team will be playing with significant reduced capacity but the Eagles are the first team to outright ban any fans from walking through the turnstiles. It’s doubtful they’ll be the last.
Current Philadelphia guidelines bar groups of more than 25 people from gathering. And sports won’t become the exception, even if being outdoors and socially distanced helps prevent the spread of COVID.
”I do think that games can be played with the kind of safety precautions that they’re proposing. I do not think that they can have spectators at those games,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “There’s no way for them to be safe having a crowd there.”
Philadelphia and Eastern PA has been hit hard by the virus throughout the course of the pandemic. Philadelphia County alone has recorded over 27,000 cases and 1646 deaths. It’s a much different story in Pittsburgh, where Allegheny County’s had only 5364 cases and 199 deaths, meaning it’s possible Heinz Field escapes that same no-fans fate this fall.
In a recent email sent out to ticket holders, the Steelers said their goal is to play with “reduced capacity” in the stands and all fans permitted to attend must wear masks. The NFL appears to be leaving decisions up to each team, based on the number of cases in the area. While Pittsburgh’s numbers are low compared to many other parts of the country, they are on the rise, and it’s certainly possible local officials ban fans from attending Steelers’ games too.
The Eagles travel to Pittsburgh for Week 5 on October, 11th. Kickoff is set for 1 PM/ET.