Should Professional Sports Allow Fans?


Tristan Morales, Sports and Clubs Editor

Almost seven months into the global pandemic, pro-sports have returned. This was a pivotal moment for American citizens, creating a diversion from the daily pandemic news. The Los Angeles Lakers are 2020 NBA Champions and the Tampa Bay Lightning are 2020 Stanley Cup Winners. What do these teams have in common besides being the best in their leagues?

They won championships with nobody in attendance. 

Upon returning to play, fans were not allowed in the stands of the NHL and NBA. Players and all personnel were required to take daily COVID-19 tests and live in what was termed “bubble cities”. These bubble cities were completely fenced off and created an environment for players to isolate from the outside world. No one was allowed in unless they would quarantine for two weeks. Fans definitely did not fit the criteria. 

Although, with the 2020 MLB World Series underway and the start of the NFL’s regular season, there seems to be a change in fan attendance in the stadiums. Stadiums are opening its door at about 25% capacity or sometimes even less. Fans are assigned specific seats in order to maintain social distancing protocals. A normal NFL arena, which can hold 60,000+ people, is currently only accepting about 1,200 fans. 

What does this mean for the future of pro sports? Is it even safe to allow fans back into arenas? 

One idea is that only amphitheaters should open at a certain capacity because they are an open-air arena. This allows for ventilation of air in the stadium. Sports that are played in amphitheater style arenas include football, baseball and soccer.  In the NFL, it is up to the teams to come up with their own rules and guidelines regarding fans. The MLB has set the guidelines for their league as well, currently allowing only 11,300 fans in arenas that can hold up to 40,000. 

Despite being spread out and a cut in the total capacity, there are still some concerning factors with allowing fans back into the arenas. The price of tickets is at the top of that list. With the demand for in person games going up and a decrease in capacity, could it be possible that the price of tickets will increase as a result? Fans may have to buy tickets months before a game in order to secure a seat. Box offices may close completely to decrease transmission from the seller to buyer. In addition, while fan to fan transmission is an issue, fan to player transmission may also become a problem. For the most part, these players are living in “bubble cities” and have been quarantined completely. With introducing thousands of fans into the arena, there will be a risk of infecting a member of the staff, team, or coaching staff. Since these fans haven’t been tested or quarantined, there is no way of knowing if they are truly healthy or not.

Furthermore, there is no plan for sports that are played in an enclosed arena such as basketball or hockey as of now. These arenas have no ventilation and seats are very close to one another. In addition, the hallways in these arenas are considered ‘high traffic’ with walls that are close to each other. How will these leagues handle the long lines that are seen during the regular season? Especially in the winter, fans shouldn’t be forced to stand outside on long lines while entering the arena in order to accommodate social distancing. This could be detrimental to fan attendance during winter sports and could hurt those markets as well. 

There are multiple factors that play into whether or not fans should be allowed back into arenas. Each day we are learning new information about the pandemic that helps us, however, there are still a ton of unknowns that may put multiple lives at risk. With the cold and flu season right around the corner, perhaps it is wiser to hold off fan attendance until the spring of 2021. In the world of sports, the most important thing right now is to maintain the health and safety of the staff, players and fans while accommodating both sides.