Majority of Americans won't be comfortable attending a sports event until COVID-19 vaccine is available

The encouraging COVID-19 vaccine news over the past week from Pfizer and Moderna sent a slew of in-person travel and entertainment stocks surging, including airlines, hotels, real estate, banks, energy names, movie theater chains, and theme parks.

Another group anxiously cheering the arrival of a vaccine is pro sports leagues.

Major League Baseball, which is particularly reliant on ticket revenue, lost $3 billion from its 60-game pandemic mini-season without fans in the stands, and fears much more in losses if it can’t have fans at games in its 2021 season. The National Basketball Association lost $1.2 billion in revenue from finishing its 2020 season in a bubble with no fans.

In the NFL and in college football, some teams and schools have begun allowing a limited number of fans at their games, with masks on.

But most sports fans are waiting on a vaccine.

In the latest Seton Hall Sports Poll, 67% of Americans surveyed said they will not be comfortable attending an indoor sports event without a COVID-19 vaccine, even with mask-wearing and social-distancing at the event. A slightly slimmer 58% said they would not be comfortable at an outdoor sports event without a vaccine either.

Only 21% of those surveyed said they would attend an indoor sports event prior to the arrival of a vaccine, and 28% said they would attend an outdoor sports event without a vaccine.

The poll surveyed 1,506 American adults from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16, and has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

Fans outside the ballpark stand as the U.S. National Anthem is performed inside Fenway Park before the shortened season opening MLB baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, played before an empty ballpark because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., July 24, 2020.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Interestingly, the numbers have improved somewhat since last April, when the Seton Hall Sports Poll asked the same question (but did not distinguish between indoor or outdoor events) and found that 72% of people would not attend a sports event without a vaccine. (In July, a Yahoo Finance/Harris Poll survey found that 69% of respondents felt either “not at all comfortable” or “not very comfortable” attending a sports event in person.)

But even with that slight improvement, “These are just awful numbers to ponder,” says Daniel Ladik, a marketing professor and poll methodologist at Seton Hall University. “The Pfizer announcement of an imminent and efficacious vaccine was widely published prior to our polling and is presumably reflected in these numbers. An eager nation of sports fans awaits.”

The poll results should also be of interest to other in-person entertainment industries, like movie theaters. Last week, a Yahoo Finance/Harris Poll survey found that 81% of U.S. adults have not been to a movie theater since before March, when widespread lockdowns began, and aren’t comfortable going back yet primarily because of COVID-19 concerns.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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