When shelter-in-place and lockdown orders seemed like they would be a passing moment in time, it may have been easy to dismiss the idea of long-term changes to our everyday way of living. The “new normal,” as it has been regularly referred to, was (hopefully) something that would come and go with the passing of COVID-19.
Several months later, it’s clear that adapting to the new normal is simply something we all have to get used to. Many companies don’t plan to return to their offices in full until 2021 (if at all), dining out is something that continues to happen with less and less frequency, and social distancing is now a part of everyday consideration. For millions of Americans, there’s another aspect of life they’ll be missing out on in 2020: professional sports.
Some leagues (like the NBA) have managed to actively institute policies designed to isolate players from any unnecessary threat of contracting COVID-19. At the time of this writing, several NFL teams have announced their plans to play through the season with no fans in attendance. The end result is clear – if you’re lucky enough to see your sport of choice return in 2020, this will be an asterisk year at best.
And while they may not have any say in the matter, we asked nearly 1,000 sports fans a simple question: How much money would you pay to see a game this year? Let’s take a closer look at what they had to say, which leagues and teams seem to be worth the most to fans, and what fans are planning to do to get their sports fix.
Are You Ready for Some Football?
If Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, has any say in what happens during the 2020 NFL season, his team will be playing in front of a packed crowd in AT&T Stadium. Unlike the position held by most NFL teams about how to navigate football in the midst of a global health pandemic, Jones clearly stated in August that while he plans on bringing fans back safely, he expects to fill as many of the 40,000 available seats in the stadium as possible.
When asked how much money they would hypothetically be willing to spend to see a full season (with or without fans in seats), nearly 44% of NFL fans weren’t willing to spend a dime. With renewed attention being paid to the subject of kneeling during the national anthem in support of Black Lives Matter protests, some fans have announced plans to boycott the NFL entirely. Among those offering to put their money where their passion for football is, fans indicated they would be willing to pay $156 a month to watch football games being played without fans in stadiums, and $191 for games with fans in attendance.
More than half of NFL fans surveyed admitted they were even willing to contract COVID-19 in order to watch a game in person. Including the 76% of fans of the Carolina Panthers, more than 70% of fans of the Indianapolis Colts (75%), Baltimore Ravens (73%), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (73%) said the same. Just 21% of NFL fans indicated they would purchase the seat next to them to ensure social distancing if they were allowed to attend a game in person in 2020.
Basketball During COVID-19
In a completely unprecedented move, the NBA resumed its season in 2020 by inviting players, staff, and coaches to live and play in a single location: Disney World. Referred to as the “NBA bubble,” the idea was to keep teams isolated from outside factors by inviting them to live in Disney World hotels, play games in Disney facilities, and simply exist within the confines of the Happiest Bubble on Earth.
While 47% of NBA fans weren’t willing to pay to see their teams play in 2020, those surveyed indicated seeing real fans in attendance would be worth $135 a month, on average. Fans of the Portland Trail Blazers (63%), Los Angeles Lakers (62%), and Charlotte Hornets (61%) were the most likely to indicate willing to pay to attend a game in person.
Fifty-nine percent of NBA fans were willing to take the risk of contracting COVID-19 in order to see their favorite teams play, but just 16% were willing to pay for an extra seat to help ensure they weren’t sitting next to someone else while in attendance. Fans of the Phoenix Suns (79%), Portland Trail Blazers, and Charlotte Hornets (78% each) were the most likely to indicate they were comfortable taking a chance on getting COVID-19 if it meant getting to see a game in person.
Ready to Play Ball
For Major League Baseball, only one time prior to the 2020 season had a game ever been played without fans in attendance. In 2015, the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox played a fan-free game at Camden Yards following protests after the death of Freddie Gray. In 2020, by some estimations, the viewing experience isn’t diminished without real-life attendees in the stands.
While more than 44% of MLB fans weren’t willing to pay anything to see the season continue (with or without fans), those surveyed indicated they were willing to spend $146 a month, on average, to see the season continue with fans in seats. Another 56% of fans were willing to pay $141, on average, to attend the otherwise empty games in person, including 69% of both Los Angeles Dodgers fans and New York Yankees fans.
Compared to the NBA and the NFL, more fans (60%) were willing to take a chance that they might contract COVID-19 in order to attend a game in person. Fan bases most willing to take a chance on contracting the disease were the Washington Nationals (76%), Los Angeles Angels (75%), and Texas Rangers (71%). Among the 16% of fans who would be interested in purchasing an empty seat next to them at a game to ensure social distancing, fans were willing to pay $141, on average.
A Change of Plans
For some fans missing out on the opportunity to watch their teams play in person, the disappointment runs all the way down to their wallets. Fifty-seven percent of people surveyed indicated being season ticket holders for at least one professional sports team including the NBA (64%), NFL (44%), and MLB (40%).
For at least 75% of season ticket holders polled, the 2020 season resulted in at least a partial refund of their tickets. Eighty-two percent of season ticket holders of both NFL and NHL tickets indicated having gotten money back for the 2020 season. While the price of season tickets varies from league to league and from team to team, 45% of fans getting a refund indicated putting that money into savings, followed by those who invested it (39%) and spent it on other sports-related purchases (37%).
Making Do at Home
It may be fun to fantasize about how much money you would spend to see sports return to some sense of normalcy in 2020. Getting to go to a game, weekly tailgating rituals, and even just being around fellow fans are unlikely to take place for sports fans this year, no matter how much they are willing to pay.
Instead, we asked fans what the “new normal” means for getting their sports fix. Forty percent of respondents indicated paying for a TV viewing package (like the NFL Sunday Ticket) in order to watch games, and another 39% upgraded their existing packages to include more options or games. Given the virtual nature of viewing, 38% of fans said they upgraded their at-home internet to accommodate viewing, and 35% purchased a newer or upgraded TV. Among the 20% of sports fans who purchased or upgraded their home entertainment sound system to enjoy sports from home, the average expense was $147.
A New Normal for Sports
No matter how much money fans are willing to pay (or how willing they are to risk contracting COVID-19 in the process), attending a live sporting event in 2020 likely isn’t in the cards. As many leagues and teams make sweeping changes to protect players and team staff from the disease, fans have to consider what their at-home options might be. For some, that’s included upgrading to new or even better TVs and sound systems.
With the money you got back from refunded season tickets or with the cash you’re saving by not attending games or tailgating, now could be the perfect time to consider opening a Personal Capital Cash account. With the added benefit of high FDIC insurance, a Personal Capital Cash account also gives you flexible deposits and withdrawals. With no fees and an easy-to-use mobile app, this could be the season for you to open an online cash account. Secure, flexible, and easy to use, learn more at Personal Capital today.
Fair Use Statement
Are your readers still coping with life without sports? Share the results of this study for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page in your story as credit to our team of contributors.
Methodology and Limitations: Using Amazon Mechanical Turk, we polled 983 sports fans. Fans were defined as watching at least three games per season for each league as well as identifying the teams they were fans of. All numerical values were based on a minimum of 1 and the maximum values were capped at the 95th percentile. Within our study, we had 670 NFL fans, 823 MLB fans, and 836 NBA fans. Our respondents’ average age was 36.9 with a standard deviation of 11.77. 663 men and 320 women completed our study. There are some limits to the data explored above. These include the possibility of respondents exaggerating their answers and overestimating or underestimating values. This is all presented as hypothetical. All of the data in this study are self-reported and have not been weighted for any demographics.
Disclaimer: The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money. Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.