The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the sports world in an unprecedented way. Tournaments, games, and entire seasons have either been postponed to completely canceled, leaving league officials anxious for the day when the lockdowns are finally lifted. And although there's no doubt fans are also holding their collective breath for sports to resume, it could be a while before we see packed stadiums and arenas.
According to a new Seton Hall Sports Poll at the Stillman School of Business, 72 percent of Americans said they would not feel safe attending live games before a COVID-19 vaccine was available. This is unfortunate news for many leagues, as experts say it could take at least up to a year before a vaccine is developed. Among responds who identify as "sports fans," 61 percent said they would not attend a game without a vaccine.
"It’s understandable that people may feel hesitant to attend sporting events or other crowded events, even if restrictions for social distancing are lifted," Dr. Roberto Posada, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, told Huffington Post. "While we hope that an effective vaccine will be developed, the process for vaccine development is slow and may take 12-18 months in a best-case scenario. Predicting what this virus will do in the next year would be very difficult, indeed impossible, at this point in time."
The poll, which was conducted between April 6-8, had a small sample size of 762 respondents and margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.
About 12 percent of those polled said they would attend a live game only if social distancing measures were effectively implemented. Thirteen percent said they would feel safe regardless of vaccine availability or social distancing rules. According to the poll, 74 percent aren't convinced sports will resume in 2020.
Many sports leagues have spent the past month trying to decide their next steps in the COVID-19 era. While there are reports that the NBA is considering scrapping their season all together, other leagues, like the NFL, seem optimistic that their seasons will take place as scheduled. President Donald Trump addressed this uncertainty during a phone conference with major sports commissioners earlier this month. During the call, POTUS reportedly said fans will likely be "back in stadiums and arenas by August and September"—just in time for the NFL season.
"They want to get back. They've got to get back ... We want to get back soon, very soon," Trump said of his conversation during a White House press briefing. "We have to open our country again."