COVID-19 Study: Sports Fans Ready to Play Ball

A big conversation in the media this week has been whether — in light of COVID-19 — major sports leagues will find a way to play and exactly what that might look like. With that in mind, we wanted to get the perspective of fans to see how they think this is all going to play out. 

It turns out a global pandemic plus the cancellation of nearly all live sporting events feels like a double whammy. But despite this, a new study from our research team at Kickstand showed that 93% of sports fans supported the decision to pause seasons for the safety of fans, staff, and players.

Now, as days become weeks, and weeks become months — fans are changing their tune and want leagues to “find a way to play.” 

MLB fans ready to play.

No fans are more ready for the return of their sport than MLB fans —  74% of MLB fans now want the league to find a way to get back on the field — with fans citing it will improve everything from their mental health (74%), outlook (81%), family time (60%), and overall sense of normalcy (81%) during this stressful nationwide quarantine. This makes MLB fans 3% more likely than NFL fans, 9% more than NBA fans, and 14% more than NHL fans to be saying “let’s play ball.”

What will a return look like.

There’s much speculation on what a return to sports will look like, specifically as it relates to fan participation. Should sports seasons restart, a huge majority (91%) of fans think there will either be no fans allowed (37%) or limited fans allowed with restrictions that support social distancing (57%). Interestingly, 17% of respondents said they will be more likely to watch sports on TV if no fans are in attendance, while 21% said less likely, demonstrating sports may experience little to no drop off in TV ratings, and possibly even attract new fans. In fact, 27% of respondents said they would be willing to pay an additional fee to watch sports, recognizing leagues will lose stadium revenue. 

Does a crowd matter?

An overwhelming majority, 84%, of fans agreed that fans can impact a game outcome. So what happens when fans are removed from the equation? 55% of fans think play performance will decline. 

But even if fans are allowed, leagues may have trouble filling seats. 48% of fans said that even if fans are allowed into stadiums this year, they will be less likely to attend due to concerns about COVID-19. 

We have quite a bit of data in this sports study, including perspectives on the Olympics postponement and fall’s impending NCAA and NFL season. If there’s something you’d specifically like to see, let us know at And tune in each week as we share insights from our weekly COVID Pulse Survey and topics of interest throughout the COVID crisis. 

This study surveyed 685 sports fans in the United States and was conducted at 95% confidence level with a margin of error of +/- 4%.

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