ATHENS — The picture of what SEC football games are going to look like this season is coming into focus. The SEC added more clarity on Friday when it announced more in-stadium guidelines for the 10-game season, which is scheduled to get under way on Sept. 26.
1. Only “essential personnel” will be permitted on the field. This will be particularly interesting for Georgia, which under coach Kirby Smart has built one of the largest support staffs in country. The SEC didn’t provide a number on Friday, but it will include the players, coaches and support personnel, game officials, medical personnel, institutional personnel, law enforcement, a limited number of photographers and contracted radio/TV personnel, and other limited personnel essential to the execution of the game. Typically, the SEC limits game-day rosters to 70 players. There have been internal discussions of reducing that number.
2. All individuals with access to the team bench area must participate in the SEC COVID-19 testing protocol. That means tests six days and three days before each game.
3. A minimum of 500 tickets must be available for the visiting team. These are to be used by player and coaches’ families and aren’t expected to be sold to opposing fans.
4. School bands will be allowed. So, yes, the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band is coming. But it won’t march and won’t likely be 400 strong, as per usual. The SEC’s guidelines allow for bands to attend the games but not to perform on the field before, after or at halftime. Likewise, there will be no presentations or recognitions of any kind done on the field.
5. As expected by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), press boxes will be limited to no more than 50% capacity for media covering games. Postgame press conferences will be conducted via digital conference call, with the reporters remaining in the press boxes or remotely.
6. The home team’s facilities staff will be required to disinfect both the home and visiting team spaces utilizing SEC-approved chemicals and methods. The spaces include the locker rooms, coaches’ rooms, training rooms, sideline areas, coaches’ booths and any additional areas provided to either team. Areas and equipment is then required to be locked down until Thursday or Friday prior to game day. Once both teams have accessed their spaces, only team staff are allowed inside the spaces and no outside individuals, including television personnel, are allowed access.
So far there are no specific SEC guidelines for the number of fans that can attend games, other than the seating must adhere to local and federal social-distancing recommendations. Georgia’s Sanford Stadium will be set up at 25% capacity, or a total of about 23,000 spectators.
“Following advice of the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force, we continue to develop policies intended to provide a healthy return to competition,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement released Friday. “Some of these are difficult decisions but are a reality of our circumstances, and we will continue to develop and refine policies as we monitor issues related to COVID-19.”