Detroit Lions won't have fans at Ford Field to start 2020 season
The Detroit Lions will open the 2020 season without fans at their home games, but the organization still is holding out hope it can host spectators at Ford Field later this year.
The Lions announced Friday that fans will not be allowed to attend games at least though October.
The Lions play just two home games in the first seven weeks of the regular season, Sept. 13 against the Chicago Bears in their season opener and Oct. 4 against the New Orleans Saints.
They play road games against the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals in Weeks 2 and 3, and have back-to-back road games after their Week 5 bye.
The earliest fans would be allowed in Ford Field is Nov. 1, when the Lions play the first of three November home games against the Indianapolis Colts.
"I think this year is just going to be show up and play," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "We don’t know if anybody’s going to be in the stands, if they’re going to be pumping crowd noise in, how that’s going to go. I don’t know. I can’t worry about all that kind of stuff. It’s for sure going to be different than I’m used to hearing Ford Field going crazy, especially for a home opener. That’ll be different, but so is everything since 2020 hit so might as well be different and just go on with it and play ball."
Friday's announcement comes as no surprise two weeks after the Lions gave season ticket holders the option to opt out of the season and with the state of Michigan still adhering to capacity limits at sporting and entertainment venues.
Currently, stadiums are limited to 25% capacity or 250 people, whichever is smaller.
Ford Field seats 65,000.
The Lions still are preparing for an opportunity to host fans later in the season by making two separate three-game ticket packages available for season-ticket holders. One of the ticket packages includes the Washington (Nov. 15), Houston (Nov. 26) and Minnesota (Jan. 3) games; the other includes Indianapolis (Nov. 1), Green Bay (Dec. 13) and Tampa Bay (Dec. 27).
"We have spent considerable time and resources implementing new gameday protocols at Ford Field and are ready to host fans at Lions games once approved by state guidelines,” Lions president Rod Wood said in a news release. “The health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, has been a focal point for all facets of 2020 season planning as demonstrated by being one of the first teams to gain approval from the NFL and NFLPA for meeting training camp COVID-19 requirements. We have the utmost confidence that we can provide a safe and enjoyable experience for fans at our stadium.”
The Lions are one of several NFL teams planning to play without fans for at least part of the season.
The Chicago Bears said Monday they will not have fans at Soldier Field for an undetermined length of time, while the Green Bay Packers announced earlier this month they won't host fans for their first two games, including Sept. 20 against the Lions.
Packers president Mark Murphy said over the weekend that more than 80% of the team’s fan base opted out of attending games this year. The Lions declined to say what percentage of fans opted out.
Other teams that won't have fans for all or part of the season include the New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders, who will not play in front of fans all year in their new stadium.
Asked last week whether he prefers to have crowd noise piped into Ford Field in the absence of fans, Lions coach Matt Patricia said he’s not sure what the atmosphere will be like this fall.
“Certainly at home, I’d like any advantage we can get, so I’m all for that,” he said. “But on the road, definitely not, so if they can get us just at the home games that’d be perfect. But I haven’t really thought too much about it.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content.