The Browns on Saturday learned they've been granted a variance to the State of Ohio's sports order that will allow the team to host fans at FirstEnergy Stadium with approximately 10 percent capacity for the team's first two home games and until further notice, pending the constantly evolving COVID-19 circumstances.
The variance, which was also granted for the Cincinnati Bengals, will allow no more than 1,500 fans in each quarter of the seating bowl at FirstEnergy Stadium and will require fans to arrive through a designated entrance. Fans will be required to wear masks throughout gameday, including ingress, during the game and egress.
The Browns open their home schedule Thursday, Sept. 17, against the Bengals. The variance also will be in place for Cleveland's Week 3 (Sept. 27) game with the Washington Football Team.
"We greatly appreciate Governor DeWine and Mayor Jackson, along with the state and city health departments, for their support of our FirstEnergy Stadium Responsible Restart Plan," A Browns spokesman wrote in a statement. "We are grateful for their collaboration and contributions throughout our process, as well as those of medical experts from the CDC, University Hospitals and Duke University, industry-leading venue consultants and the NFL, to craft a plan that will help create as safe as an environment as possible at the stadium for our players, coaches, gameday staff and fans.
"We are thrilled, particularly on behalf of our fans, that we received approval to welcome back a limited capacity of approximately 10 percent at FirstEnergy Stadium for our first two home games in September. We will continue to closely monitor the ever-evolving circumstances related to COVID-19 and remain in frequent dialogue with each of these groups so we can properly adapt as needed with the hopes of potentially allowing more fans to attend games at a later date, if circumstances allow.
"For the past four months, our organization has done extensive work in consultation with all of the stakeholders listed above to incorporate best practices and robust protocols that prioritize health and safety and allow for a reduced number of fans in the stadium for Browns games this fall. We are confident in our plan and our ability to execute it. We also fully recognize that education, collective buy-in and a commitment to shared responsibility are extremely important to the plan's success, along with diligent cooperation and compliance from our fans."
The FirstEnergy Stadium Responsible Restart Plan includes a number of significant changes to gameday operations, including the requirement of facial coverings, a quadrant system that separates fans into specific zones with a dedicated gate based on their seating location, recommended time windows for entry, pre-game health screenings and ticket distribution in "pods of known fans" for the reduced capacity of fans that will be at the stadium.
The overarching goal of the Responsible Restart Plan is to enable a limited capacity of fans to return to FirstEnergy Stadium while also prioritizing the health and safety of everyone, including players, coaches, fans, gameday staff, and others involved in the gameday experience. The foundation of the plan is guided by the following seven principles:
- Physical separation of at least six feet of social distancing
- Requirement of masks or other face coverings for all individuals (age 10+)
- Health screening, including via a Fan Health Promise that requires pre-event self-health screenings for all fans, and on-site temperature checks and health questionnaires for all staff
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols throughout the venue
- Comprehensive hygiene protocols for all fans and staff
- Extensive training, signage and communication
- Accountability, flexibility and compliance protocols to provide oversight and adapt to evolving circumstances
The Browns have notified season ticket members via email about next steps in acquiring tickets for these games. The letter below provides further details.
Dear Season Ticket Member,
We greatly appreciate your patience throughout our process to gain the necessary approvals to host fans at FirstEnergy Stadium during the 2020 season. We've done our best to remain in frequent communication, and are thrilled to inform you that last night we received approval from both the State of Ohio and City of Cleveland to welcome back a limited capacity of fans for Cleveland Browns home games. Beginning with our two home games in September and continuing until further notice, capacity at FirstEnergy Stadium will be capped at approximately 10 percent. We will continue to monitor the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation and will remain in frequent dialogue with relevant authorities and other key stakeholders so we can properly adapt as needed with the hopes of potentially allowing more fans to attend games at a later date, if the COVID-19 situation improves and circumstances allow.
As you recall from our last correspondence, the execution of our FirstEnergy Stadium Responsible Restart Plan is a crucial element of a successful return to having you, our fans, enjoy Browns games in person this season. We all must understand the shared responsibility we have in adhering to the protocols in our plan, designed to help keep us as safe as possible and slowing the spread of COVID-19. The critical requirements of properly wearing face coverings, practicing good hygiene by frequently washing your hands and using hand sanitizer cannot be stressed enough.
Our initial ticketing plan for the 2020 season is designed to provide interested Season Ticket Members (STMs) with an opportunity to attend as many 2020 Browns home games as possible, while also complying with government mandates and health and safety recommendations from medical experts, including the requirement that no two self-selected groups of ticketholders, or "pods of known fans," sit within six (6) feet of one another at the stadium. Please note that the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving, and our ticketing plan was designed with flexibility in mind. In this context, we thank you in advance for your continued understanding as we work to ensure everyone is treated fairly and in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of our entire Cleveland Browns family.
- Tickets will be distributed on a single-game basis in the order in which they are scheduled to occur.
- STMs will be placed into STM Groups based on tenure and PSL status. Each STM Group will have the opportunity to select available tickets on a game-by-game basis, beginning with the longest tenured STMs and PSL holders.
- Tickets to the first game and subsequent games will be made available in waves to STM Groups, until quantities are no longer available.
- When presented the opportunity to purchase tickets to an individual game, STMs will select the same number of tickets as on their account, regardless of how that allotment is divided into pods of known fans.
- If someone chooses not to select tickets to their first designated game, they will not have the opportunity to acquire tickets to another game until all subsequent STM Groups have had the chance to do so. As such, there is no guarantee a STM will have access to tickets to a future game so it is recommended that STMs purchase tickets when they have the first opportunity to do so if they would like to attend any 2020 Browns home games.
- When a STM Group is queued to acquire tickets for an upcoming home game, each STM in the group will receive an email from the Browns with an assigned timeslot. When assigned a seat selection time, tickets will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis to the relevant STM Group within the defined window.
- Due to limited inventory in order to create pods of known fans that accommodate social distancing, many locations will be unavailable, including the first eight rows of the stadium per NFL-NFLPA policies.
- Fans will be able to select preferred locations (as they remain available) at the 2020 season ticket member price of each seat. Based on a STM's selection, the applicable cost will be reduced from their account and/or fans will be prompted to provide credit card information to cover any remaining balance.
For more detailed information on our 2020 ticketing plan, please visit https://www.clevelandbrowns.com/tickets/2020-ticketing-plan.
If you want to receive 2020 tickets, adherence to your assigned timeslot is crucial. Please that note because we are committed to giving all interested STMs an equal opportunity to attend games, we cannot accept requests for an earlier timeslot, for access to tickets to a specific game or to make special accommodations if you miss your designated timeslot.
Please note that this initial ticketing plan is subject to change at any time, particularly given the fluidity of circumstances related to COVID-19, and we will be in communication with you if anything changes. In the event you purchase tickets to a game that ultimately cannot be played in front of fans for whatever reason or if governmental restrictions necessitate further reduced capacities, we may not be able to provide you with the tickets you select under this ticketing plan, in which case you will receive a credit to your account for any such tickets not received, unless otherwise requested.
Despite this unprecedented situation, we are very excited about the upcoming Browns season, and we sincerely appreciate your flexibility and understanding. Please know that we want as many Season Ticket Members as possible to experience Browns games in person this season, but only while adhering to health and safety best practices and regulations. We understand that if you cannot make it to FirstEnergy Stadium this year, you will be there with us in spirit. For those who are coming, we will need you to be louder than ever, even with your face coverings because we must follow all health and safety protocols. If you have any further questions, please contact the Membership Services Team at 440-891-5050 or email us at email@example.com.
As a reminder, if you know that you want to opt out of purchasing tickets for the 2020 season, you can still do so without losing your status or seat locations for the 2021 season, and we will look forward to welcoming you back next season. All unrefunded money that you previously paid for 2020 tickets will remain a credit on your account (unless otherwise requested), and your seat location, STM status and PSL status (if applicable) will remain intact for the 2021 season.