“The overall biggest long-term problem for sports is the fear associated with public interaction,” Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob said in an email to the Wall Street Journal. “When does that go away? When will society decide that it is once again safe to interact in public? That is the big question for sports teams and leagues.”
“The good news is that this virus will be beat and things will return to normal,” he wrote. “We know the enemy, and medical knowledge and capabilities are greater than ever in history.”
According to a report by Front Office Sports, in a poll of 400 sports fans, 31.4% said that they would likely start attending sports events again as soon as games started playing again, according to data from Designsensory Intelligence.
Furthermore, 35.4% said that they were not sure when they would attend a sporting event again, but it would be whenever they would be comfortable being in crowds again, and 25.1% said they were not sure what it would take for them to attend a sporting event again. Roughly 5% said they would likely never attend a sporting event again, although Designsensory Intelligence notes those fans may not have attended live sports events even prior to the pandemic.
However, despite a relatively pessimistic reaction to going back to a game, 95.9% of those fans said that they would continue to support the sports that they have in the past, either the same or even stronger than before. Twenty-two percent of those fans also said that live sports will be even better than ever, while 10.1% said live sports would not rebound from this.
Seton Hall University asked what people would do if the leagues resumed play before the development of a vaccine. 72 percent of Americans said they would not attend games, with 12 percent saying they would if social distancing could be maintained. Only 13 percent said they would feel safe attending as in the past. Among sports fans the number drops to a still significant 61 percent.
As for the possibility of playing games with no fans present, a similar number – 76 percent – said they would watch broadcasts of the games with the same interest as before, with only 16 percent saying they would be less interested and 7 percent saying they would be more interested.
In an article published by Arena Digest, a study from Performance Research, based on polling of over 1,000 representative U.S. consumers by online sampling partner Full Circle Research between March 23 and March 26, indicates that people will be slow to return to large events.
According to the study, when respondents were asked if they will attend “Fewer,” “About The Same Number” or “More” events once they are safe to attend, the highest percentage (44 percent) predicted they will attend fewer, while 38 percent reported their attendance won’t be impacted; the remaining 18 percent indicated they will attend more events.
The Wall Street Journal noted that imagining a return to packed stadiums is even harder when the stern lessons of recent mass gatherings are only beginning to be understood.
It isn’t just because fans will have less disposable income to spend on sports tickets. It’s also become clear that the outbreak of coronavirus in Northern Italy was turbocharged by a soccer game between Atalanta and Valencia in Milan on Feb. 19. Fans who attended other matches are now wondering if they are sitting on their own time-bombs.
While the poll results may seem a bit negative as this point, it’s worth reiterating the fact that we are still very early in the process of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate of decline in new cases, the speed of new treatments, the promise of rapid fan-screening and the development of a vaccine will all weigh heavily on fans future perspectives.
As we noted earlier in the week, there are some early signs of improvement. Silicon Valley health officials are now expressing more confidence that the shelter-in-place order implemented March 16 is working to curb the spread of the virus. Instead of projecting 50,000 coronavirus cases by May 1, the stay-at-home order may limit the number of cases in Santa Clara County to 2,500 to 12,000, according to a new estimate.
The main model used by the White House and pretty much everyone else was updated Wednesday to show far fewer projected US deaths from Covid-19 — down to 60,415 people by August, from the 82,000 the model showed on Tuesday (which was already lower than previous projections).
By Jon Sorensen