UPDATED WITH BROWNS STATEMENT.
The Cleveland Browns will be allowed to have fans in the stands for the first two games of the regular season - just not a lot of them.
On Saturday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine granted a spectator variance to both the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals that will allow “up to 6,000 spectators at two home games”:
The Browns had previously made a request to allow up to 20 percent of the capacity of FirstEnergy Stadium, which is about 13,000 fans, attend games. But while DeWine’s variance is below that, some fans are probably better than no fans.
DeWine credited the work that the Browns and the Bengals put into developing plans to safely allow fans to attend games on a trial basis:
“This year will certainly be different, but both the Browns and Bengals have worked exceedingly hard and have made extensive preparations to welcome a limited number of fans to their stadium safely. These very thorough plans and safety precautions warrant a two-game trial to try and accomodate fans, at reduced capacities with social distancing and masks.”
The variance allows for up to 1,500 fans on each side of FirstEnergy Stadium, bringing the total to 6,000 fans. Fans are also required to wear masks and used the designated entrances to enter the stadium.
The Browns issued a statement Saturday afternoon about the decision:
The Browns also issued a letter to season-ticket holders about the new ticketing policy. According to the team’s website:
Tickets will be distributed on a single-game basis in the order in which they are scheduled to occur.
STMs will be placed into STM Groups based on tenure and PSL status. Each STM Group will have the opportunity to select available tickets on a game-by-game basis, beginning with the longest tenured STMs and PSL holders.
Tickets to the first game and subsequent games will be made available in waves to STM Groups, until quantities are no longer available.
When presented the opportunity to purchase tickets to an individual game, STMs will select the same number of tickets as on their account, regardless of how that allotment is divided into pods of known fans.
If someone chooses not to select tickets to their first designated game, they will not have the opportunity to acquire tickets to another game until all subsequent STM Groups have had the chance to do so. As such, there is no guarantee a STM will have access to tickets to a future game so it is recommended that STMs purchase tickets when they have the first opportunity to do so if they would like to attend any 2020 Browns home games.
When a STM Group is queued to acquire tickets for an upcoming home game, each STM in the group will receive an email from the Browns with an assigned timeslot. When assigned a seat selection time, tickets will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis to the relevant STM Group within the defined window.
Due to limited inventory in order to create pods of known fans that accommodate social distancing, many locations will be unavailable, including the first eight rows of the stadium per NFL-NFLPA policies.
Fans will be able to select preferred locations (as they remain available) at the 2020 season ticket member price of each seat. Based on a STM’s selection, the applicable cost will be reduced from their account and/or fans will be prompted to provide credit card information to cover any remaining balance.
Given the limitations on how many fans may attend games, at least for the first two home games, it seems pretty likely that season-ticket holders will be the only ones who have the opportunity to purchase a ticket.
The two games impacted by DeWine’s decision are the home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 17 and against Washington on September 27.