Nashville SC didn’t exactly have the final say in the matter, but club CEO Ian Ayre spoke in favor of the decision this morning: the club’s home games in Nissan Stadium through September 12 will not be played in front of fans.
That includes games Aug. 30 (Inter Miami CF), Sept. 2 (Orlando City SC), and Sept. 12 (Atlanta United). While NSC played in front of fans in both games against FC Dallas over the past week, this Saturday’s contest in Atlanta will also be conducted in an empty facility.
From Club release:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 18, 2020) – Nashville Soccer Club in partnership with Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced today that the club’s matches, as Major League Soccer returns to play in local markets through Sept. 12, will be played without fans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement was made in Mayor Cooper’s daily COVID-19 press conference, attended by Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre and Titans President and CEO Burke Nihill, whose team will also play without fans in their home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 20.
“It’s hard to believe that almost six months ago, on Feb. 29, we welcomed 60,000 fans at our inaugural match in Major League Soccer, and even harder to realize the change our lives have endured since then,” said Ayre in his statement.
“As we prepare to return to playing games back at Nissan Stadium starting on Aug. 30, we will miss the support from those 60,000 fans. Whilst we all know the value of fans to their team, we believe that it’s important that we all take responsibility in fighting this virus by taking a responsible approach for the safety of everyone.
“That means wearing our masks and adhering to all CDC protocols, so together we can control it, minimize it and we all hope that as a result of this continued responsibility we will be able to welcome you back at Nashville SC matches in a safe environment soon,” Ayre concluded.
Over the past several months, Nashville SC has partnered with MLS, the Titans and local health authorities to design a plan that will provide the safest experience for those attending an event in the stadium. This plan includes mandatory face coverings, structured ingress and egress planning, socially distant seating, contactless faucets, hand sanitizer stations throughout the stadium, individually-wrapped food and many other health and safety precautions.
The team will continue its preparation and collaboration with local authorities in the hope that fans are allowed to attend games soon.
In the meantime, Nashville SC Season Ticket Members should refer to the communication sent to them on Aug. 8th that requested feedback regarding their account preferences for 2020 and 2021. Please reference that correspondence or check https://www.nashvillesc.com/returntoplay/faq for additional information. Alternatively, please contact directly a membership service representative by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As much as it pains the club from a perception, market-penetration, and fanbase-building perspective, this is quite obviously the right choice. After the team was unable to play in the MLS is Back tournament because of an outbreak (almost certainly acquired and spread in the home market) of the novel coronavirus on the squad, a measure of extra caution was amplified – and it’s frankly embarrassing for FC Dallas that their club didn’t come to the same conclusion, particularly when the fans who did make it to Toyota Stadium Wednesday evening booed a peaceful demonstration in favor of racial justice from the players, and threw bottles onto the pitch in the process.
Going forward… well, we all hope (but quite frankly, should not have a ton of faith, unfortunately) that the pandemic fades enough over the course of the next month that the subsequent phase of return-to-play feels more like a typical Major League Soccer season.
Nashville SC certainly has yet to have a ton of those typical experiences.
Nissan Stadium photo by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country.