As more teams announce they’ll have no fans, the competitive imbalance grows

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The deal between the NFL and NFL Players Association that allowed the 2020 season to proceed prohibits players from attending professional sporting events (other than, you know, their own games), unless they’re in a separate seating section, like a suite or owner’s box, with no more than 10 people present. But that’s not keeping the league from preventing teams from having however many fans present that state and local laws will allow.

More and more teams can’t secure permission from state and local authorities to host fans for the early games of the season. This creates even more of a competitive imbalance for the teams that are able to have partial, or possibly in time full, capacity.

The reason for the imbalance is obvious; the league wants to minimize the financial losses from a season with no fans. For some reason, the league won’t just come out and say that.

Football is business. (They say “football is family,” because saying it is good for business.) And that’s OK. We can enjoy professional football while also acknowledging that football enjoys the money it makes from our enjoyment of it.

Here’s the real question. If, in the end, just a handful of teams ultimately have fans present for games, does the money that will be  earned justify the competitive imbalance? The league already has decided that it will, that it does, no matter how great or small it may be. And the policy surely won’t be changing.

But that doesn’t mean coaches like Mike Zimmer of the Vikings and Sean McDermott of the Bills have to like it. And it doesn’t mean they have to keep their disdain for this policy to themselves.

Unless and until the league issues a memo telling coaches, General Managers, owners, and other executives that any complaints about the inherent competitive imbalance resulting from some teams having fans and others having none will result in a fine or other discipline, coaches, General Managers, owners, and other executives should be willing to point out that a season that may  have unavoidable competitive imbalances due to the pandemic is getting started with an avoidable one.

23 responses to “As more teams announce they’ll have no fans, the competitive imbalance grows

  1. I don’t think the imbalance will be all that substantial. We aren’t talking about a packed stadium in Seattle here. Let Miami have their 20,000 fans or whatever. That’s not a lot of fans, relatively speaking, and the team will still suck. And then when they go on the road and play to fake crowd noise they’ll be all discombobulated. This could all work out.

  2. A coach that is concerned about what is going on in the stands has lost his focus. Can anyone imagine Bill Bellichick worrying about this?

  3. I can imagine Bill Belichick worrying about everything. Every little detail…Privately. No way he airs one-tenth of one percent of that worry publicly though.

  4. Maybe instead of crying to the media about the NFL not imposing unnecessary restrictions, McDermott and Zimmer should ask why their state governments have banned fans in an outdoor venue when other states haven’t.

  5. Kirk Cousins is looking forward to not having the pressure in front of playing in front of fans. This is a professional quarterback, who publicly stated not playing in front of fans would be “a breathe of fresh air” because they’re too much “smoke and fire”.

  6. The amount of spectators any specific state/city allows in a stadium has nothing to do with how many people will actually show for the game. They may allow 20,000… I’ll be surprised if that many are there.

  7. They’re piping in crowd noise up to about 80% of normal, but will they do that with fans in attendance? In any case, crowd noise isn’t going to be a factor with at best 50% capacity, and most often a lot less.

    Having said all that, the NFL didn’t let anyone back to their facilities until all teams could do so. Should be the same way with fans.

  8. Not allowing fans or limited fans in the stands is kinda handy to hide the fact many fan are not showing up anyways …

  9. the entire season will be one of imbalances. Worrying about the number of fans at a given opponent is ludicrous.

  10. The one thing about having a stadium 20% full is the fans will be able to heckle and boo and it won’t get lost in the full crowd noise. Just hope those fans are not ripping on their own team if they are doing badly…

  11. Competitive imbalance is there even without COVID. I believe they used to call it ‘home field advantage ‘. Some have it cause they play in a dome in front of a large home crowd. Others have it cause they play in a Northern state on grass and come December visiting teams don’t really like that, especially if they are a dome or team from the South. If anything the smaller crowds will be an equalizer.

  12. This isn’t a problem with competitive imbalance unless you are talking about possible revenue issues. A handful of fans at the game aren’t going to change the outcome of game. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  13. The only game where a fan has affected the outcome was when a Patriots fan blocked a pass from the Texans in the end zone on the last play of the game in 1961. The refs didn’t notice and the Patriots ended up winning 28-21.

  14. If the Chargers are forced to play in an empty stadium at home that will be a good thing for them. It will be the first time since moving to LA that they will not play in front of a hostile audience.

  15. It’s misguided policy by the nfl for sure to not just say no fans all year everywhere. But you know this is being guided by Jerry Jones- who will say it’s “for the fans” – and then be totally shut down in about 6 days with a league mandate that no fans can be present anywhere in the stadiums this year.

    Roger is usually a day late and a dollar short but he’s trending in the right direction.

  16. ‘Home-field advantage’ was studied in detail by the people who brought us Freakonomics. They concluded that the only factor benefiting the home team is the refs are more likely to make calls in their favor. Social conformity. I wonder if this advantage will dissipate in the absence of fans, or if fake crowd noise will have the same effect on the refs.

  17. The owners greed knows no bounds. Just face the fact there shouldn’t be any fans in any games atleast until January and move on. It’s not that hard. But the owners want that additional revenue so bad that they just can’t let it go.

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