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Arthur Blank thinks football will be played, with or without fans

Falcons owner Arthur Blank is trying to be optimistic, but acknowledged the reality that he might have to host games without fans, or with a reduced number of fans this year.

Blank said during an interview with NFL Network which will air tonight that his “personal view” was that the NFL would play this year.

“I’m not a physician, I’m not a scientist and what have you, but I read and follow everything else,” Blank said. “I know that it’s important, I think regardless of the sport — the sport’s important for lots of people for lots of reasons, not just the economics of it but to bring people together in a sense of community, sense of togetherness, et cetera, and a sense of purpose that they can join in together with.

“So I think there will be football. Whether or not all the games will be played with fans in the stands, I’m not sure. I know the league would certainly prefer to do that, so will virtually every other sport throughout the world. Whether or not that will be possible and provide a safe environment for our fans and our players and coaches and staff, et cetera, is still a question mark.”

Blank’s recognition might also serve as a bit of table-setting, to get fans used to the idea that they might not be able to attend games this year.

“I think in the case of the NFL, so much of the product is absorbed by television, by media in different forms and formats, that even if we had to play some games without fans in the stands — it’s not preferable, it’s not what our fans want, it’s not what our players want, it’s not what anybody wants — but we could do it,” he said. “I think so much focus is on the field itself and on the game itself that I think it would still be very acceptable and would be a great distraction for our fans.”

Blank also stated the usual conditions, such as the need for increased testing to help keep people safe.

“The concern the fans have about their own safety, we have to be able to relieve that, and to create a safe environment for them,” he said. “I think there’s ways to do that. We’re not at that point now but I think that’s where we’re headed. Whether we’ll get there for the first game of the year, I don’t know, but I think the league would like to do that, certainly.”

The league is already planning a schedule that could be reduced if the national health climate isn’t conducive to games being played, and Blank’s comments suggest another level of contingency plans being put in place.