One of the hardest hit industries by the coronavirus has been sports. Across the world, major sporting events and leagues have been shut down. Some notable ones include the Summer Olympics, Wimbledon, the NBA, and the NCAA college basketball tournament. Meanwhile, high schools, colleges, and pro leagues are questioning the route they will take in the fall, when new seasons are supposed to begin. One common belief is that fans will not be allowed to attend these events. This reality begs the question–can sports survive without fans in attendance?
Fans are obviously an essential part to any game. They provide reactions, give teams home court/field advantage, and spark energy into arenas and stadiums. Most notable sports moments are backed by an electric roar in the background by fans. Without this, a part of the game will feel empty, and less exciting. Many players also play for their fans. While the NBA was initially considering having games with no fans, LeBron James was skeptical of the whole idea. He even said that he would not want to play without fans.
On the other hand, sports without fans is better than no sports at all. In the fall, being able to watch a football game will bring a sense of normalcy to the country. Even if no fans can attend, millions will watch and enjoy games. If safety permits, then pro sports should resume, even if fans cannot attend. College sports, however, will pose a different issue. If universities decide to close for the fall semester, which some have already done, then college sports will likely not return. Since the main fan base for college teams are students, there would not be any fans for certain. And since the players are also students, it would not be safe for them to be on campus, and playing in games. Finally, whether or not high school sports have fans in attendance will be another question. Again, if schools are closed in the fall then high school sports probably won’t occur. If they are open and sports seasons are in play, hopefully they will be held with fans. If not, it will be interesting to see how students are able to watch and support their peers in games.
Graphic: Patrick Mannion