How many fans were at the Super Bowl 2021? Why NFL supporters were allowed into the stadium amid Covid restrictions

Tom Brady leads Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl 55 glory over Kansas City Chiefs at the Raymond James Stadium

Viewers who tuned into Super Bowl 55 may have been surprised by the number of fans in attendance at the Raymond James Stadium.

Spectators at the championship game of America's National Football League (NFL) saw Tom Brady lead Tampa Bay Buccaneers to glory over Kansas City Chiefs.

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Brady, the former New England Patriots quarterback, wrote a new chapter in the NFL history books at the age of 43, in front of thousands of fans allowed into the stadium.

Fans hold up signs in the stands during Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on 7 February 2021. (Pic: Getty Images)

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Those in the stadium witnessed a tearful Miley Cyrus perform pre-match before The Weeknd added his name to a long list of musical acts to headline the halftime show.

What is the capacity of Raymond James Stadium?

Tampa Bay became the first team in NFL history to take part in the Super Bowl at home - and then underlined that achievement by lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday 7 February.

A fan holds a sign reading "it takes all of us" before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on 7 February 2021. (Pic: Getty Images)

The stadium, known locally as 'The Ray Jay', has been home to the Bucs since it opened in 1998. Construction of the stadium took two years at a cost of $168.5 million (£122.96m).

It has a seated capacity of 65,618, which can rise to 75,000 for special events such as the Super Bowl, and its record attendance stands at 74,512 from 2017's college national championship football game.

How many fans were at Super Bowl 55?

The Covid pandemic meant restrictions on public gatherings and live sports events remained and were adhered to by NFL organisers in the lead up and during the 2021 Super Bowl.

The stadium was allowed to welcome a reduced capacity of spectators for the game, in line with local government protocols, which saw one third of the seats sold to the paying public.

It meant no more than 25,000 fans could be inside the stadium to watch the NFL's showpiece event between the Bucs and Chiefs - though it appeared to be more from first glances.

That was because there were 30,000 additional cardboard cutouts - sold for $100 each - of fans placed on empty seats around the stadium to add to the appeal and atmosphere.

Who attended Super Bowl 55?

As well as fans, a percentage of the seats available were allocated for healthcare workers as invited guests of the NFL.

A total of 7,500 professionals from the health sector - all of whom had received a vaccine against coronavirus - were in attendance as a 'thank you' for their efforts during the pandemic.

Most of the healthcare workers were from the Tampa area and central Florida region, meaning the Bucs had plenty of support on the night, while all 32 NFL clubs were represented.

Pictures showed mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing and controlled entry and exit points around the stadium.

Fans were spread out around the stadium and behind the scenes there were a number of measures introduced to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, such as touchless measures at concession stands.

How did the NFL allow fans into the Super Bowl?

Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, said the decision to allow fans into the stadium had been reached after consultation with national and local health officials.

He said: "These dedicated healthcare workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude. We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes.

And added: "This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings."

Health officials will closely monitor cases of Covid in the coming days and weeks to see what impact the event had on infection rates in the area, and if any could be linked back to the Super Bowl.

There was a small group of anti-vaxxers outside the stadium, dressed as referees, protesting the use of Covid vaccines.