Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t believe that there’s a competitive advantage from some teams having fans in the stands and others not having fans in the stands. He also believes that, as the season unfolds, more teams will have fans in the stands, erasing the competitive disadvantage that he doesn’t believe exists for those teams while amplifying the competitive advantage that he doesn’t believe exists as to the teams that still won’t have fans.
“[W]e’re gonna have two or three stadiums next week which will have significant fans in them, and I believe that will continue to grow as the season goes on,” Goodell told CNBC on Wednesday. “I think people want to get comfortable, not only our fans but also the local officials. And we support that. We want to take a cautious approach, a responsible approach, and make sure we’re doing this in the right way for our fans but also to make sure we’re doing it for our communities, to make sure we’re doing it in a way we’ll all be proud.”
Goodell was asked whether he feels political pressure to have fans in the stands.
“We feel our own pressure, the pressure of our fans,” he said. “We want our fans to be able to experience the games. And so that’s always been our intent, is to open up for our fans. But public health and safety is No. 1 for us. So if local officials are not comfortable from a medical standpoint, we’re always gonna heed that and we’re gonna obey that and we’re gonna do the appropriate thing.”
As previously explained, the dollars and cents of having 15,000 fans present typically doesn’t make sense, and that teams indeed feel the pressure from fans who desperately want to attend games to find a way to let them. Some teams aren’t necessarily unhappy that state and local officials won’t let them have fans present, since that keeps them from having to throw the doors open when they’d rather not do it.
Still, it’s always better from a competitive standpoint to have fans than to not have fans. As one fairly high-level employee from one of the NFL’s teams told PFT on Wednesday after Goodell’s latest remarks, “That’s why they call it ‘home-field advantage.’ . . . And he probably hasn’t had to play in Seattle or New Orleans or Minnesota.”
It’s clearly an advantage. Oddsmakers adjust the line based on where a game is played, with home teams generally getting three points and some getting up to five due to the home-field advantage.
Regardless of whether Goodell or anyone else with the league office will acknowledge the existence of a competitive advantage, the home-field advantage apparently will expand as the season unfolds, making the disadvantage even greater for the teams that already have made it clear they’ll play the full season without fans in the stands.