NFL season to open at full capacity as Colts get green light

The National Football League (NFL) will open its 2021 season at full capacity after the Indianapolis Colts became the final team to secure clearance for full attendance at its stadium.

Lucas Oil Stadium is set to operate at its normal capacity of 63,000 after the Colts were granted permission following extensive consultation with the Marion County (Ind.) Public Health Department (MCPHD).

As COVID-19 is still affecting the city and state, the Colts said they will continue to be vigilant about keeping fans safe and healthy, but added that most in-stadium protocols from last season will be relaxed or eliminated.

Single-game tickets for the entire 2021 season are on sale now, with the Colts stating that inventory is already very limited for the opening two home games against the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.

“We were fortunate to be able to host fans in 2020 through the pandemic, and those fans were as loud and proud as ever,” said Colts owner and CEO, Jim Irsay. “But gamedays at Lucas Oil Stadium are like family reunions, and it wasn’t quite the same without our entire Colts family alongside us.

“So we can’t wait to open the stadium doors to all our fans so they can take this journey with us as we work to bring a Super Bowl title back to Indianapolis.”

Last season, the Colts were one of the few teams to host fans at every home game. The Colts were ninth in attendance figures last season with a total of 79,560 fans, or an average of 9,945 per game, admitted to Lucas Oil Stadium. Capacities peaked at 12,500 last season.

The NFL appeared to be closing in on its goal of having stadiums at full capacity for its 2021 season last month after it was disclosed that only two teams were yet to receive permission for this course of action.

The NFL’s US-based 2020 season saw 119 games have fan attendance in some capacity, with around 1.2 million fans in total. Fan attendance was determined by teams’ local COVID-19 restrictions. Notably, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers (SoFi Stadium), as well as the Las Vegas Raiders (Allegiant Stadium) were forced to play their entire seasons behind closed doors at their new homes.

In March, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed his hope that full capacity would be achieved for the 2021 season and recent weeks have seen a number of teams make announcements to this effect.

At the NFL’s two-day spring meeting, Peter O’Reilly, the League’s executive vice-president of club business and events, stated all but two teams had gained approval from state and local governments to open their stadiums at full capacity for the new season.

The two teams that had yet to receive authorisation were the Colts and Denver Broncos. The latter was subsequently granted permission to operate Empower Field at Mile High at full capacity for Broncos fans on June 2.

In May, the NFL announced a return to international play with Tottenham Hotspur Stadium confirmed to host two games during its 2021 regular season, the only outings for the League in the UK this year.

Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars will be the home teams for the games, taking on the New York Jets on October 10 and the Miami Dolphins on October 17, respectively. Both games have been scheduled for 2.30pm GMT kick offs.

Image: Ryan De Hamer on Unsplash