SoFi Stadium to open as an NFL arena without fans

Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers have confirmed they will begin life at their new $5bn SoFi Stadium without fans being present.

After consulting with state and local health officials, the Rams, Chargers and stadium officials announced that home games at the 70,000-capacity arena “will be held without fans in attendance until further notice” due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This means the Rams’ September 13 home opener against the Dallas Cowboys and the Chargers’ first home match of 2020-21 against the Kansas City Chiefs will be played without fans in attendance. They become the latest teams to announce they will play behind closed doors, with the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals also barring fans this week.

“While we all look forward to coming together to celebrate this new era of sports and entertainment in Los Angeles, the health and safety of our fans, community, players and staff remains our top priority,” the joint statement said.

“We will continue to work with LA County Department of Public Health and the City of Inglewood on a plan that, when circumstances permit, safely brings fans to SoFi Stadium and adheres to local, state, CDC and NFL guidelines.”

If public health conditions “significantly improve” and state guidance progresses enough that the Rams, Chargers and SoFi Stadium feel fans can safely attend home games, the teams and the stadium will communicate the news at that time.

“While we are doing everything to safely open SoFi Stadium and ultimately fulfill its promise to Rams fans, the NFL and to this region, we know our ability to welcome fans into the building will be guided by the wisdom of health care experts and the policies of local, state and federal government officials. Therefore, we won’t speculate on any timeline as to when fans will be able to join us,” Los Angeles Rams chairman Stanley Kroenke said in a statement.

“The health and well-being of our employees, community and the nation, remains our highest concern.

“Millions across California and the country are on the front lines fighting COVID-19, caring for our neighbors and protecting our communities. We applaud their selfless and tireless heroism and thank them for their many sacrifices.

“All of us can’t wait until the day we come together to celebrate life and resiliency through sports. Until then, we ask that everyone continue to stay safe and support one another.”

The Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots are among teams that have reduced stadium capacities for the upcoming campaign. Those decisions could be altered or scrapped, entirely, before the season officially gets underway on September 10 when the Chiefs face the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.

SoFi Stadium was due to open with a Taylor Swift gig on July 25, but that concert and performances by artists including Guns N Roses and Tim McGraw have been postponed until next year or cancelled. Pre-season games at the new arena have also been cancelled ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

The Rams are due to acclimatise to the stadium in a practice Saturday, when players will be able to test the new synthetic turf and visit an arena many have not set eyes on since a tour of what was then a construction site back in 2018.

Image: LA Rams