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Coronavirus: Miami Dolphins to allow 13,000 fans for home opener

Critics say the Dolphins' plan is "risky" with coronavirus cases still on the rise in parts of Florida

Miami Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium
Image: The Miami Dolphins play their home opener against the Buffalo Bills on September 20

A maximum of 13,000 fans will be allowed at Hard Rock Stadium for the Miami Dolphins' opening home game of the NFL season against the Buffalo Bills on September 20.

Socially distanced clusters of seats and masks are among the precautions at the 65,000-seater stadium, the team announced Monday.

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Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores explains why he released quarterback Josh Rosen and will go forward with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa in the position.

"We're happy that our elected officials recognise the attention to detail and diligence that we've put into creating a safe environment and that they made the decision to move forward with a 13,000-capacity stadium at this time," Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said.

The Dolphins are scheduled to open the season September 13 against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Patriots announced the team will not have fans at games for at least the month of September.

Miami Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium
Image: The Dolphins' plans have been described as 'risky'

The Dolphins' plan is not drawing unanimous favour in Florida, where COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in many regions.

Dissenters include former University of Miami president Donna Shalala, a U.S. Representative in Florida, who called the plan risky.

"We still have community spread in South Florida," Shalala said. "So the kinds of precautions that need to be taken are extraordinary, and I think it's going to be very difficult to do. There is no question that it's risky."

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The University of Miami will also have fans at its home opener on September 10.

Visiting Bills head coach Sean McDermott was not pleased about the Dolphins looking at filling 20 percent of their stadium on September 20. He wasn't happy others are being allowed to host games with fans present, either.

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The NFL returns to Sky Sports this September with a dedicated channel, new shows and old favourites.

Western New York was labelled a caution flag by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday because of its COVID-19 case count. The Bills will not have games with fans as of now, but no official plan for Bills has been revealed.

"I think it's honestly ridiculous that there will be on the surface what appears to be a playing field that's like that, inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums," McDermott said.

Many teams are not permitting fans this season, and some are taking a more measured approach before determining how long they'll play in empty stadiums.

The Kansas City Chiefs and visiting Houston Texans are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 10 at Arrowhead Stadium. About 16,000 fans will be permitted in the stadium for the opener unless coronavirus cases increase and require new health and distancing guidelines.

According to the Dolphins, their season ticket holders will have first priority to purchase tickets based on their tenure. Any season ticket holder who may be considered at-risk based on CDC guidelines will be strongly encouraged to exercise the 2021 option and stay at home in 2020, the team added.

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