Only 17 per cent of American adults said they would attend professional sporting events when they reopen to the public, with over a quarter said they would rather wait until there is a vaccine for Covid-19, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
Among those who have attended a professional sporting event in the past year, 42 per cent said they would return whenever it reopens to the public and 39 per cent said they would rather wait for a vaccine, even if that means waiting more than a year.
"Just because people say we can go back, until people feel fully safe . . . they aren't going to go back," said Victor Matheson, a specialist in sports economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
“We go to games for entertainment and you’re not going to be very entertained if you’re not worrying about who the next player to bat is and instead worrying about that person who just coughed two rows down.”
Cincinnati resident Angie Hopkins, who has gone to pro games in the past, said she would not attend them again before there is a vaccine, out of concern for her health and that of her son.
“The risk of being with all those people, crammed in together, I think that would be unsettling,” she said.
“I have fibromyalgia, which could make me at risk for more serious complications. And my son has asthma, so I wouldn’t want to expose him either.”
About 59 per cent of sports fans agreed that before a vaccine is available, professional sports leagues that have seen their seasons upended – like Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League – should hold games behind closed doors , while 33 per cent disagreed.
That could spell trouble for tennis’ US Open, which is scheduled to kick off in hard-hit New York City on August 24th. Organisers have said it was highly unlikely that they would hold the largest and loudest Grand Slam tournament without fans.
It is also unclear whether the NFL will delay the scheduled September 10th start of its 101st season. Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week he believed the season could begin on time, but did not specify whether the league would consider doing so without fans.
The United States leads the world with almost one million coronavirus infections and more than 56,000 deaths as of late Monday.
While as many as 100 potential vaccines are in development around the world, scientists are projecting that bringing one to market could take 18 months.