NFL-Patriots limit game-day attendance

Credit: REUTERS/David Butler II

By Amy Tennery

July 14 (Reuters) - The New England Patriots' Gillette Stadium will welcome about 20% of its usual crowd at games this season -- if fans are allowed to attend at all -- the team said on Tuesday.

The franchise is the latest in the NFL to adopt social distancing protocols for attendees ahead of the upcoming season, which is set to kick off on Sept. 10, as the number of new cases of COVID-19 rises in many states across the U.S.

The six-time Super Bowl winners said that the reduced seating plan at the 65,878 capacity stadium was pending state and local approval, as they acknowledged "game days will look different this year."

"Ticketed parties will be asked to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet from other parties, tickets will be arranged in blocks of 10 seats or less, and the first eight rows of stadium seats will not be used," the Patriots said in a statement.

"Additionally, face coverings will be required at all times inside the stadium."

The league is also implementing its own measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including bans on post-game handshakes and jersey swaps, while players will not be allowed to interact with fans.

Other teams also plan to reduce attendance.

The Philadelphia Eagles will play to empty stands this season after the city's health commissioner said it was not safe to have fans attend, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Tuesday. The team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Baltimore Ravens told fans last week that it plans to host no more than 14,000 fans at the 71,000 capacity M&T Bank Stadium, if any can attend at all.

The Cleveland Browns said the likelihood of playing to a full stadium "is very low" this season, while the Green Bay Packers said that capacity at Lambeau Field would also be reduced.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery Editing by Toby Davis)

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