Pro Teams Put On Notice In Age of COVID-19 Pandemic: Seton Hall Poll Says 72% Of Americans Wouldn’t

Updated: Apr 18

By Alan Snel of

A Seton Hall University sports poll has some sobering results for professional teams amid the coronavirus pandemic: a majority of Americans and even sports fans say they will not attend sports games until there is the development of a vaccine to immunize people from COVID-19, a strain of virus that has killed thousands of Americans.

Seton Hall released the poll results Thursday. Let’s take a look.

“Asked what they would do if the leagues resumed play before the development of a vaccine, 72 percent of Americans said they would not attend games, with 12 percent saying they would if social distancing could be maintained. Only 13 percent said they would feel safe attending as in the past. Among sports fans the number drops to a still significant 61 percent,” according to a Seton Hall media release on the poll.

Popular VGK fans Christopher Green and Alyce Wheeler at a home game this season. Photo credits: J. Tyge O’Donnell

And here’s what the poll release says about calling off sports for the rest of the year: “Medical experts have repeatedly put the timeline for approval of a vaccine into 2021, although they have not ruled out an existing drug proving effective for treatment this year. Seventy-four percent of Americans thought it was possible, likely or very likely that sports would be cancelled for the rest of this year.”

Fans at a Las Vegas Lights soccer game at downtown Cashman Field. Photo credit: J. Tyge O’Donnell/

Brett Lashbrook, owner of the Las Vegas Lights soccer club based in downtown, offered this response: “We are obviously living in a new world. Think how much has changed in less than a month?

“While we may not collectively know the ‘when’ yet, there is zero doubt in my mind that live sporting events will return — and when they do they’ll continue to play an important (albeit intangible) role in the overall recovery process. In the interim, we wait. There are obviously other concerns in the immediate term. But make no doubt about it — sports isn’t going anywhere long-term in our society. Our time for players, coaches and fans will be back — zero doubt.”

And a fan’s reaction to our story on Facebook:

Meanwhile, “Norm in Vegas” responded on Twitter: “There also the question of how many people will be able to pay for tickets after this, even if there is a vaccine.”

More from the release on the Seton Hall poll:

If the Policy of Social Distancing Continues into the Fall, Should NFL Start Up? And if social distancing continues into the fall, 70 percent thinks the NFL should not start up to insure the players safety, with 20 percent saying the league should resume but allow the players to choose not to play, and only six percent saying the league should start up as planned.

These were the results of a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this week among 762 Americans across the country on both landlines and cellphones. The Poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percent.

“This virus has the attention and respect of the nation,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll, which is sponsored by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. “Those who identify as sports fans, at all levels of interest, line up closely with the general population in regard to their own safety and that of the players.”


Play Games without Fans Present? As for the possibility of playing games with no fans present, a similar number – 76 percent – said they would watch broadcasts of the games with the same interest as before, with only 16 percent saying they would be less interested and 7 percent saying they would be more interested.


Did Leagues Shut Down at the Right Time? Make no mistake – sports fans miss their sports…but also respect the devastating power of the virus. Seventy-six percent said sports shut down at the right time, with 16 percent saying not quickly enough and six percent saying too quickly.


Olympics? Eighty-four percent felt the IOC acted appropriately in postponing this year’s Olympic Games to 2021, with only 14 percent saying they acted too quickly.


Should Teams Pay Stadium Workers? And asked whether teams have an obligation to pay daily arena and stadium workers for time missed because of the virus, 59 percent said yes and 33 percent said no. held a Q and A with sports fan Justin Gannon, a realtor in Las Vegas, about this topic.

LVSB: With people wearing masks in public and governments stressing social distancing, how can fans feel comfortable about returning to ballparks and arenas and stadiums where fans sit right next to you?

JG: It’s hard to believe they would. You see it at the grocery store now, where there are some people that don’t think about social distancing, but the majority are consciously making an attempt to, even though it’s a crowded space. Fans would need to know there is zero chance at getting Covid-19 – vaccines, antibodies, or it just cycles out. Whatever it needs to be. Or we as a society learn even more about it and people feel less threatened by it.


LVSB: What should teams do to ease fans back into sports venues?

JG: I’m not sure. I believe it would have to come from the president and multiple world leaders saying it is okay for 20,000 – 100,000 people to gather in the same place. We’ve already seen that conversation begin between the sport organizations and the President with their conference call last week.


LVSB: Should sports venues test fans’ temperatures and have masks available at venues when fans are allowed to return to arenas and stadiums?

JG: Again, I’m not an expert. If the government says it’s OK with no restrictions, or put restrictions on like temperatures and face masks, then the teams will enforce them. I think it’ll end up like you see in some international sports where some fans choose to wear masks because it’s a way of life for them now and some won’t.


LVSB: Should teams offer special discounted ticket deals for fans when they are allowed to return?

JG: No. When you discount a product it’s hard to make a customer pay full price again. Plus there will be a huge demand for sporting events in my opinion, so it’ll probably drive the price up. Teams should be fully aware though of their individual cities’ economic realities. If a city is closed for months on end and millions stay on unemployment, it would be wise for ticket prices to reflect that and then slowly increase.


LVSB: Do you think there will be an interim period when teams will play before no fans at venues and the games will only be available via broadcasts?

JG: Yes. 100 percent. UFC is doing this. WWE (while not sports, is a similar structure) is doing it. Sports are entertainment. The only difference is the outcome is not predetermined. It’s all about the fans’ enjoyment and fans will watch on TV. The athlete’s mind is different – it’s competitive and about them. But as a fan, the athlete is a major part of the entertainment piece of sports. The NFL is too powerful and will not postpone. I believe if MLB/NBA/NHL has not figured out a way to play by September, the NFL will because that’s who they are as a league. Also, TV and Sponsorship revenue are massive for the leagues, and both of them would continue.

And here are a sampling of some social media responses to the story:

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