When Will Sports Fans Feel Safe to Return to Watch Games?

Many people may not want to return to packed stadiums once play resumes

An employee of LG Twins watches a game at an empty stadium. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
An employee of LG Twins watches a game at an empty stadium. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
Getty Images
By Evan Bleier / April 6, 2020 1:13 pm

For now, sports fans are being forced to subsist on virtual races and ESPN8: The Ocho in order to get their fix.

But, eventually, sports will return (we hope).

The question is, will fans?

In a piece in The Wall Street Journal, Joshua RobinsonBen Cohen and Laine Higgins examine that issue to determine when, and maybe if, sports fans will decide it’s socially acceptable to be around thousands of strangers again and feel comfortable returning to watch live games in-person.

One clear issue is that most fans will have less disposable income to spend on tickets once play returns. Another, obviously, is that many people will not want to return to packed stadiums thanks to what we now know about how viruses spread throughout mass gatherings.

“I think we’re naive to think that’s not going to persist in a long-term way even when we’re past the virus and past the pandemic,” America East Conference commissioner Amy Huchthausen told The Journal. “I have a hard time believing that once an order is lifted, people are just going to flock to go back to a 50,000-seat or 100,000-seat stadium like they did before.”

During a Saturday conference call, President Trump told the commissioners of major U.S. sports leagues he wants fans back at games “very soon” and anticipates the NFL will be able to start on time in September.

“I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said. “And the fans want to be back, too.”

Once sports start again, it will be interesting to see if he is right.

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