For sports fans, the effects of pandemic protocols are most obvious when watching live games: Covered seats, cardboard cutouts, or the hushed tones of stadiums hidden with artificial crowd noise.
Leagues are making earnest attempts to bring a sense of normalcy to our lives upended by COVID-19, but there’s no real replacement for fans in the stands.
YouGov data collected since the pandemic began shows about a third of sports fans — give or take depending on the market — see live sporting events as important to their overall quality of life.
With lockdowns coming to an end in the United Kingdom on December 2, fans will once again be able to enter stadiums, albeit in small numbers; 4,000 in the country’s “Tier 1” areas and 2,000 in “Tier 2.” Total lock-outs will continue for other areas, which account for many heavily populated regions. The restrictions in Great Britain remain tight, but the end of the latest lockdown provides a small glimmer of hope for struggling clubs and their restless fans, of whom 36% say live events are important to their quality of life.
Across the North Sea in Germany, there is no such glimmer for sports fans yet. The country imposed tighter rules that will span into the new year, with a brief reprieve around Christmas. This will come as unwelcome news to the 33% of sport fans in that market who see live sporting events as important to their quality of life.
In the United States, there is a patchwork of restrictions, which means several NFL teams are allowing a limited number of spectators into stadiums, although protocols at the team- level change week to week. Of the three markets we’re looking at, the US has the highest rate of people who view live sports to be important to their overall quality of life (37%).
Live sports are important to quality of life of a lot of people, but are fans ready to return? YouGov tracks that data in several markets and in the United States, for example, 22% of sports cans would be comfortable attending live events (which could include sports, concerts or festivals).
Methodology: Results are based on the question: “How important, if at all, is watching or attending live sporting events to your overall quality of life?” asked between April and August 2020. Sample sizes were 12,446 sports fans in the United States, 21,685 in Great Britain, and 6,926 in Germany. The sample of sports fans are based on those who chose any sport when asked: “Which, if any, of the following sports do you watch / follow? Please select all that apply. By watch / follow, we mean that you either actively read about the sport on a regular basis, watch live broadcasts or highlights of matches/events online or TV, or attend matches/events in person.”