NFL American football franchise the Green Bay Packers has announced Lambeau Field will not host fans for the first two home games of the 2020 regular season, with a view to changing this approach from that point onwards as part of an “incremental” strategy.

The Packers are due to welcome the Detroit Lions on September 20 and Atlanta Falcons on October 1, with their third home game set to be against the Minnesota Vikings on November 1. Whether fans can attend this game and others later in the season will depend on the status of COVID-19, the team has said, adding it will continue to evaluate a variety of factors in consultation with local medical and public health officials.

As preseason games are not being played this year, the Packers said conducting the first two regular-season games with only the essential participants at the 81,441-capacity Lambeau Field will allow the organisation to focus on the game itself. This will also allow the organisation, the only publicly-owned team in the NFL, to implement all the protocols that are in place due to the pandemic.

“Lambeau Field will not be the same without our fans’ energetic support in the stands,” said Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy. “Given the extraordinary circumstances this year and the additional protocols in place, though, we determined it was best to take incremental steps to start the regular season. These two games will allow us to focus our attention on safely conducting games inside the stadium with all necessary participants.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to host fans for games later in the season, should conditions allow. We will continue to consult with community healthcare and public health officials on the pandemic conditions in our area. We ask our fans to continue to help by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing guidelines.”

In conjunction with the games taking place without fans, all other public areas at Lambeau Field will be closed during home games, including parking lots and the Lambeau Field Atrium’s attractions. Titletown is expected to remain open to the public, but no team-run gameday activities will be planned.

If the team can transition to hosting fans for games later in the season, the Packers said season ticket holders who have opted in for the opportunity to purchase tickets this season will receive instructions about the ticket-purchasing process at a later date.

Previously, the Packers announced that if fans are allowed to attend games, the stadium would only be able to accommodate a significantly reduced capacity. Fans attending games will be required to wear face masks, use only mobile tickets, and are encouraged to wash their hands often. In addition, all concession and Pro Shop purchases will be cashless.

NFL teams have taken differing approaches to the subject of having fans in their stadia. Earlier this week, it was announced that the new 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium will be closed to Las Vegas Raiders fans for the 2020 season amid ongoing restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The Atlanta Falcons have said there will be a limited capacity of between 10,000 and 20,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for home games. The Los Angeles Rams have said their new SoFi Stadium will be at limited or no capacity in 2020, while season tickets will not be possible for its debut campaign.

The New York Giants and New York Jets announced their games at MetLife Stadium will be held behind closed doors until further notice to meet COVID-19 regulations in the state of New Jersey. The New England Patriots stated they expect to operate Gillette Stadium at 20% capacity.

The Baltimore Ravens became the first team in the league to specify its intended attendance cap if fans are allowed at games during the 2020 season, with the Jacksonville Jaguars following suit. The Philadelphia Eagles have been informed by city leaders that they shouldn’t expect to have fans in Lincoln Financial Field this season.

Image: Green Bay Packers