An order from the Ohio Department of Health banning spectators from all “contact sports” indefinitely was issued over the weekend. This means that, until Gov. Mike DeWine or his health czar change that order, there will be no fans at Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Ohio State Buckeyes, or any other football contests in the state.
Other sports defined in the order are basketball, rugby, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, hockey, boxing, futsal and martial arts. All will be played with no fans until the government decides it is safe and changes its rules.
“I’ve thought about that because that’s a potential circumstance,” Ohio State linebacker Dallas Gant told The [Toledo] Blade this summer when asked about playing in front of no fans. “In practice, coach [Ryan Day] will talk to us about creating our own energy. We’ll go through practice without any music. Obviously, it’s kind of different. But whether there’s nobody in the stands or 100,000, we have to play. It definitely would take some getting used to.”
Browns management has allowed fans to pause their season ticket memberships without penalty, but have not yet announced capacity plans. The Bengals have done the same. MLS’s Columbus Crew will also have to play in front of no fans when they play regular season contests beginning in August – as would the Cleveland Cavaliers and Columbus Blue Jackets should the order stretch to when the NBA and NHL 2020-21 campaigns kick off. The Buckeyes had previously announced plans to have a maximum of 20,556 fans in attendance at cavernous Ohio Stadium due to the coronavirus.
“While no final decision has been made regarding the 2020 football season, the Department of Athletics has been working diligently with university leaders, public health experts and government officials to create game day plans that protect the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, staff, faculty and fans,” the Buckeyes athletic department said in an email to season ticket holders. “In order to provide the safest environment, certain measures will need to be implemented at Ohio Stadium this year, including physical distancing, mandatory masks/facial coverings, limited concessions, no tailgating and no skull session at St. John Arena. These measures will result in a reduced crowd capacity of no more than 20 percent of overall stadium capacity and will impact all ticket holder constituencies in both overall ticket quantity and seat location.”
Gov. DeWine has been aggressive in his treatment of the coronavirus pandemic, shutting the state down early on. Case numbers have surged of late, sending the seven day case average up above 1,000 for the first time in the pandemic and exceeding 1,500 cases on several days. But the state remains well below the national average in known cases by population, with just over eight cases per 1,000, compared to the national par of 14.6.