With most sports on hold for the last two months, fans are eager to end their days of deprivation. According to a survey conducted by ESPN, a majority of sports fans would welcome the return of games and televised competition even if they are played without crowds in attendance.
Results from the network’s Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study found that 65 percent of those surveyed preferred sports to start again even without fans at games. The approvals grew from there, with 76 percent supporting proposed plans to house games without fans and keeping players in a bubble-like environment when they come off the playing field. A staggering 88 percent answered that no matter when games do return, they intend to consume as much of the action as they can.
Sports fans have certainly been dealt an upsetting spring that saw the cancellation of March Madness, the delay of baseball’s Opening Day, suspension of the MLS, NBA and NHL seasons, and even the scrapping of the XFL, among other harsh impacts. WWE has defied the nearly-universal lockdown of sports leagues by continuing to hold events like WrestleMania for empty venues. NASCAR and UFC are on tap to resume competition later this month, while the PGA Tour’s revised schedule will launch in June.
But questions remain when it comes to the MLB, NBA and NHL, all of which have reportedly discussed holding operations in hub cities without fans. There is still no word as to when or how those leagues may return, though officials across all three have expressed their desire to complete their seasons in any form.
Though still months away from its September start, the NFL is hopeful to carry out a full season – the league will release the 2020 schedule tonight – with fans in attendance. The Miami Dolphins shared ways in which that may be possible by outlining safety scenarios that would reduce fan capacity in stadiums, organize entry and exit for separation, and implement concession pick-up that eliminates waiting in lines. Fans are so eager to watch football in particular that a third of cable subscribers would cancel their subscription if NFL games are not played this year, according to survey by Kill the Cable Bill and Mindnet Analytics.
ESPN’s Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study surveyed just over 1,000 sports fans ages 18 and up last month, though new polling waves are scheduled in the coming months to monitor any changes as the pandemic’s situation evolves.