After months of on and off-field battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL season is finally set to reach its conclusion, as it all comes down to the Super Bowl LV on this Sunday, 7th February when Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will lock horns.
Just like all other concurrent sports, the 2020 NFL season was heavily impacted because of the virus crisis. With the United States topping the charts in COVID cases, the impact on the league was high and so was high the strictness of the protocols and regulations put on the teams.
However, now the toiling is almost over and the league has the final piece of the puzzle on the horizon- the biggest sporting event of the country, taking place at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who will be facing defending champions Kansas City Chiefs for the ultimate showdown. But just how is NFL planning to host the Super Bowl with COVID still imminent in all its notoriety?
Chop the crowd: Raymond James Stadium will only be filled one-third
For the sports fandom of America, the Super Bowl is undoubtedly the grandest occasion in the country. As two of the best teams of the season battle each other out, the stands churn out a mesmerising aura, truly making the final’s “greatest sporting event” attribute fitting.
However, the pandemic essentially negated any crowd presence in the stadiums. Although the league has gradually allowed a small number of attendance for the matches, keeping the safety precautions in mind, returning to a pre-COVID era with the stands filled to the brim- is still not an option.
However, looking on the brighter side of things, the NFL has decided to allow upto 22,000 fans for the showdown on Sunday, which is roughly one-third of the total crowd capacity of the Raymond James Stadium.
Among them, 7,500 will be vaccinated health care workers from all 32 clubs of the league and they will be given free tickets to the grand event. However, they will take their seats behind the non-vaccinated spectators and they will also have to at least maintain a minimum of three seats of distance on both sides.
Masks are mandatory for your entry into the stadium
Breaching COVID protocols is not something the NFL has dealt with lightly, and during the season, many players have been severely punished for not wearing masks in public gatherings.
While the rules are not so strict for the Super Bowl spectators, they will still have to don a KN95 mask to step inside the stadium, which they will receive along with hand wipes, sanitizer and a safety card.
Kicked off on 29th January, the Super Bowl Experience for this year is a fully outdoor event, along the Tampa waterfront. The coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy is on display for photography, but there is no autograph signing sessions this time, although fans can sill interact with the players virtually.
The halftime duration this year has been lengthened to 24 minutes instead of the previous 13 minutes and will be headed by Canadian singer Abel Makkonen Tesfaye aka ‘The Weeknd’.
Coming to the game, its the second straight Super Bowl appearance for the Chiefs, under the sway of Patrick Mahomes with a chance to retain the title. On the other hand, Tampa Bay Buccaneers have bloomed with the arrival of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, and the hosts are banking on the veteran’s experience to taste the ultimate glory.