There is no room for negotiation at one key point because the Atlanta committee is considering contingency plans for the opening three games of the season during the coronavirus pandemic: Without fans, the game cannot be played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
President of Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Gary Stokan, whose organization is making plans for the kickoff matches of the States of Florida-West Virginia, Georgia-Virginia, and North Carolina-Auburn, said that fans should be allowed to play on neutral sites.
“If no fans are allowed in the stadium, then we cannot play this game mainly because we are only in our budget on ticket revenue and sponsor income,” Stokan told The Associated Press on Thursday. “All TV money is negotiated in the conference package. The money all goes to the conference. “
The Florida State-West Virginia match is scheduled for September 5, followed by Georgia-Virginia on September 7 and North Carolina-Auburn on September 12.
This is the first year the Stokan committee has planned three kickoff matches on a neutral site pitch. The committee is holding a Peach Bowl, part of the College Football Playoff.
Stockings are awaiting decisions from the Southeast Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 regarding plans for the 2020 season. The plan can be announced at the end of the month.
If the league overrides non-conference games, like was announced by Big Ten and Pac-12, kickoff will not be played.
One or more kickoff matches may also not last if the league decides on a “plus-one” plan to play conference games and one non-conference game. The plan will protect competition matches such as Georgia Tech-Georgia and Florida State-Florida but may not provide room for non-conference kickoff matches.
Corona virus pandemic has caused cancellation or delay more than 300 Division I. matches
The season can be pushed back one month or into spring.
Stokan said he had a guarantee that a date would be found at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium if the match was rescheduled for a later date.
The Atlanta Falcons NFL told season ticket holders this week that they plan to have 10,000 to 20,000 fans at their home matches this season at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team plans to leave 50,000 or more seats open to reach the required social distance.
This stadium can be configured for 75,000 fans for college football.
Stokan said that the committee was working on a plan with Ticketmaster “on software that allows us to use a six-foot social distance mechanism that allows us to stay safe.”
Stokan said he had been told the conference was studying the effects of players returning to training in college facilities, students returning to campus and professional sports returning to competition. It might be difficult for the conference to have as much information as needed to make a decision at the end of July to have a game in September.
Most professional sports were initially returned without fans. NASCAR has allowed several fans in the race recently.
Stokan said it would be more expensive to hold the game “because everyone has to wear a mask.” He said adding costs while cutting revenue was “a bad way to run a budget.”
Stokan said the latest guidelines from Georgian Governor Brian Kemp opened the way for fans to attend at the right social distance – if the conference and schools agreed.
Without fans, the only option is to hold the inaugural match on the campus site.
“We have to go back to the team and say we can’t financially do this,” Stokan said.