Many NFL teams set plans for reduced capacity; Falcons next

Falcons fans support their team during a game late last season.
Falcons fans support their team during a game late last season.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

At least four NFL teams have informed fans that 2020 season tickets are being canceled in anticipation of sharply reduced seating capacities because of the coronavirus pandemic.

And more than a dozen other NFL teams have told fans they can opt out of their season tickets at this point without penalty.

The Falcons haven’t yet announced their plans for reduced capacity in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but they are expected to begin informing season ticket holders of options as soon as Wednesday.

The decisions by other teams around the league provide insight into what Falcons fans can expect.

Teams that have announced season ticket cancellations or opt-out provisions have said fans can receive credits for payments already made, with the option of applying those credits to 2021 season tickets or 2020 single-game tickets (if available). Or fans can choose to receive a full refund for 2020 season tickets while retaining their same seat locations for 2021, most of the teams have said.

The common thread is an acknowledgement that if NFL games are played with fans in stadiums this year, social-distancing requirements will severely reduce attendance. Some teams also have informed fans that attendees at 2020 games will be required to wear masks.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who announced last week that all season tickets “will be returned” to the team for credits or refunds, said their stadium will be able to accommodate approximately 25% of its normal capacity. At 25% capacity, TIAA Bank Field -- also the site of the annual college football game between Georgia and Florida -- would seat less than 17,000 fans. The Jaguars said that could increase after the season begins based on “developments on the health and safety front.”

Other teams that essentially have ended season tickets for 2020 include the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

“Because the club cannot fairly re-seat the entire season ticket base across a limited number of seats,” the Chiefs said in a news release, “all season ticket members will automatically have their 2020 payment credited for the 2021 season without any action on their part.”

The Ravens said they expect a stadium capacity -- “if fans are allowed” -- below 14,000 per game.

"We are disappointed that this will be a disruption for many ticket buyers,” Ravens president Dick Cass said in a statement, “but we have an obligation to our fans and our community to keep M&T Bank Stadium as safe as possible."

Teams that already offered unconditional opt-outs from season tickets include the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.

In the event games are canceled, or played with no fans in attendance, NFL policy calls for all teams to offer anyone who purchased a ticket directly from a team their choice of a full refund or a credit toward a future ticket purchase.

Teams that have announced their plans for dealing with reduced capacities in 2020 have said season ticket holders who opt-out or have their tickets canceled will receive priority access to limited 2020 single-game tickets as available. Still, assuming some fans are allowed in stadiums, teams will be faced with determining which season ticket holders get access to tickets if more want to attend games than reduced capacities can accommodate. And many fans wouldn’t be assigned the same seats as they originally purchased.

Some teams have said the eight rows of seats closest to the field will be covered with tarps for the 2020 season to keep distance between fans and players.

Personal seat license statuses won’t be affected by changes made for this year, some teams have noted.

Some have offered incentives for rolling over previous 2020 payments to 2021 instead of seeking a refund, such as the Texans’ offer of an additional 10% credit to be used toward food, beverage or merchandise next year.

Many teams also have discontinued single-game ticket sales until new seating capacities are established and new seating configurations arranged.

Several teams recently announced cashless transactions and mobile-only ticketing at games this year because of COVID-19, two measures implemented previously at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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