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New Jersey to allow fans to return to venues next week

A general view of action in the first

A general view of action in the first quarter during a preseason game between the Jets and the Giants at MetLife Stadium on August 08, 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Sarah Stier

Here’s one more reason for the Giants and their fans to sneer at the Eagles.

On the afternoon of Jan. 3, just after the Giants had beaten the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy texted with Giants co-owner John Mara and told him he would work with the team to allow fans into MetLife Stadium for a potential home playoff game the following weekend.

That was, as Murphy said in an interview on WFAN on Monday, "before the Eagles rolled over in their last game, which cost Doug Pederson, I think rightfully, his job."

Washington wound up winning that game against Philadelphia and the NFC East title that night.

"But I had said to John . . . listen, if the Eagles lose, the Giants would have had a home playoff game and we were going to work with them to see if we could find some way to get fans into MetLife,’’ Murphy said. "It was not to be."

By the time the Giants take the field next, along with their MetLife Stadium coinhabitant Jets, Murphy said his expectation is for plenty of fans to cheer (or otherwise express themselves) for teams that play in New Jersey. On Monday he announced that as of next week, any venue with seating for at least 5,000 will be allowed to have 10% of capacity at indoor events, 15% at outdoor events.

That would allow MetLife Stadium, capacity 82,500, to have just over 12,000 fans, and for Red Bull Arena to hold 3,750 fans. Come August and September when football returns, however, that number is expected to be much higher for Jets and Giants games.

"If things go the way I’ve suggested in terms of the pandemic," Murphy said after discussing trends and vaccination plans, "I’ll be shocked if we’re not at a higher level of capacity for Jets, Giants, Rutgers football, you name it, as we get into the summer and fall. God knows we need it."

The current and future guidelines still would require face coverings and social distancing, but after a football season in which no fans were able to attend Giants and Jets games, the possibility of an actual crowd at future events was welcomed.

"As the months go on, we are hopeful that the data will continue to be positive and the number of people allowed into MetLife Stadium will steadily increase," the Jets and Giants said in a joint statement. "The health and safety of our fans, players, staff and those in our communities remain our top priority and we will continue to follow the guidance of Governor Murphy and state health officials. We missed seeing our loyal fans at stadium events this past year and are excited to welcome them back in 2021.’’

"God willing," Murphy said of his Monday announcement, "this is the first step I hope of many more to come over the coming months."

Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpré said the franchise is encouraged and excited by the governor’s decision.

"It is of utmost importance to ensure the health and safety of our fans, players and staff at Red Bull Arena," de Grandpré said in a statement. "We will continue to work closely with both local and state health officials as we establish our protocols, beginning with the start of the 2021 Major League Soccer campaign.

"As always, Red Members will be given the highest priority as we look forward to welcoming back the best fans in sports to again enjoy the beautiful game at the greatest soccer venue in North America."

New York Sports