The state of New York released guidelines for professional sports competition Wednesday that contained several mandatory and recommended practices for physical distancing, hygiene and workplace activity -- including the prohibition of fans at games or outside venues.
The six pages of guidelines included dozens of mandates for professional sports teams in the state as it enters Phase 4 of its reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. Under current circumstances, the guidelines mandate that teams "ensure that no live audience, fans, or spectators are allowed to attend or permitted to enter any professional sports venue, even if an outdoor venue."
This means that if the season began today, no fans would be allowed at New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills. Or Yankee Stadium. Or Citi Field for Mets games.
"I do expect to see fans in our stadium at some point to some degree,"Yankeesowner Hal Steinbrenner told YES Network on Thursday. "Those conversations have already happened.... [Gov. Andrew Cuomo] has been a big advocate to getting sports back on the field and then eventually, when things are safe, to get fans back in the stadium."
Steinbrenner also said a plan is being developed with Ticketmaster to keep fans socially distanced. He said the initial capacity would be for about 20-30% of Yankee Stadium, which has a listed capacity of more than 52,000.
The state guidelines also mandate that teams "prohibit fans from congregating outside the venue and implement a security plan to safely disperse any individuals that gather outside of the venue."
The prohibition of fans from games is a disappointing blow to many people hoping to watch live sports in person this fall, but the guidelines are fluid and will change as new information is presented.
"Guidelines are developed based on the latest guidance from public health officials and data, and will be updated over time based on emerging science and information," said Jason Conwall, a spokesperson for Cuomo.
In preparation for these guidelines, the Bills announced earlier this week that season-ticket holders can opt out of their commitment for the 2020 season and still be able to return in 2021 "while maintaining their account seniority and seat location."
As for the players and team staff, the state's guidelines limit on-field access to essential personnel required to successfully stage and broadcast competition and require extensive hygienic and social distancing practices. Teams must also implement mandatory daily health screenings for staff, athletes and venue personnel, as well as diagnostic testing for COVID-19 "for all athletes and essential team staff with regular player access 48 hours before a competition."
Current New York guidelines would prohibit fans from attending pro sports events
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