League considers cutting Super Bowl capacity due to COVID-19

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Super Bowl LIV - Kansas City Chiefs v San Francisco 49ers

(Reuters) - The NFL said on Wednesday it was exploring the possibility of reducing seating capacity to 20% at February's Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida, because of COVID-19.

The home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which had been expected to have a capacity crowd of close to 75,000 for the Feb. 7 NFL championship game, would instead host between 13,000 and 15,000 fans, making one of the most sought-after tickets in sport even tougher to find, ESPN reported on Wednesday.

The NFL said it was still refining its plans for the game, a money-making annual media spectacle that attracts thousands of fans to different host cities each year.

"There have been 19 teams that have already or have been authorized by public authorities to host regular-season games," a spokesman said. "The average has been around 20% with fans seated in pods and everyone wearing face coverings.

"Among the scenarios we are exploring is a capacity of around that figure but we anticipate it could grow as we get closer to the game."

The COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc with the NFL calendar with positive cases forcing a reshuffling of the schedule and leaving open the possibility of adding an 18th week of games to the regular season.

Teams have largely been left to decide for themselves whether to allow fans on game days, as long as they adhere to local and state regulations. By Week 6, more than half of weekend games had spectators.

The United States has had a surge in COVID-19 cases recently with the death toll reaching more than 227,000.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Clare Fallon)

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