Why this matters
What would need to happen for fans to feel comfortable attending live sporting events since the coronavirus?
For the first time since the global coronavirus pandemic hit center stage, the Ultimate Fighting Challenge on Saturday, May 9, 2020, marked the return of a major professional sport. As Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and other major sporting events begin to consider return, we conducted an international sports poll from April 18-27, 2020 to better understand how fans are feeling about the possibility of sports reopening, and what concerns they have about visiting live sporting events. On behalf of the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University, Latino Decisions implemented an online survey of adults (n=750) from Australia, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States. Findings from this survey suggests that over 54% of respondents think sporting events will be forever changed due the current pandemic. Not surprising, an overwhelming 76% of respondents believe that sport leagues should suspend or delay their seasons at this point of time, and 82% believe the cancellation of sporting events is a necessary step to limit the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, only 23% of respondents agree that sporting events should be allowed to continue as usual, which begs the question: What would need to happen for fans to feel comfortable attending live sporting events?
When asked what necessary precautions would need to be put in place for fans to feel comfortable to attend live events, as reflected in the figure below, 79% of respondents said there would need to be hand sanitizer at every entrance. This response was followed by having temperature screenings at entry points (62%), signage that reinforces good habits (60%), and 55% feel that they would need signage that says what is being done to reduce risk (e.g. last time an area has been sanitized). When comparing these trends across countries, South Africans were most likely to say there would need to be hand sanitizer at every entrance to feel comfortable attending live events followed by Americans, United Kingdom, and Australian respondents.
Finally, as researchers across the globe rush to fine a vaccine, we also asked respondents whether or not opening up live sporting events is dependent on the availability of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. For this item, only 15% of respondents believe that a vaccine would need to be available for live sporting events to reopen, with 31% neither agreeing or disagreeing with this statement, as opposed to 54% who agree that a vaccine should be required to reset sports. When we further analyze this item, we find that younger respondents, respondents with children, and respondents who have been denied a COVID-19 test, are most likely to agree that a vaccine would need to be available for live sports to reopen.
Our research team will continue to track potential differences in sports public opinion as well as how the indirect consequences of the coronavirus is impacting sports fans across the globe.
The full results of the poll can be found on the Global Sport Institute website. Throughout the summer, Global Sport Matters will host GSM Live events to continue the discussion around COVID-19's impact on sport.
Edward D. Vargas (@edwarddvargas) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University. Scott N. Brooks is an Associate Professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and Director of Research for the Global Sport Institute at ASU.
COVID-19 is the rival no one in sport could game plan for. As many live events remain at a stand still and the world adapts, how will sport reset upon its return?