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Study shows fans would rather sports return without spectators than wait

A new study by ESPN shows that sports fans would rather sports return to action without spectators than wait until they're allowed to attend events.

As leagues continue to explore plans for getting back on the field (or court), one of the biggest questions facing the sports world is when will fans be allowed to attend?

But according to a new nationwide study performed by ESPN, fans would rather leagues just find a way to get back to action, even if it means doing so without spectators in the crowd.

Surveying 1,004 sports fans aged 18 or older, the ESPN Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study found that 65 percent were in favor of sports returning, even if it means fans won't be allowed in the stands. Meanwhile, 76 percent of those surveyed said they support the return of sports without fans in the stands "if players were kept in hotels and their contact with others was closely monitored."

As the NBA, NHL and MLB have explored options for returning, the idea of keeping players and team personnel isolated in hotel rooms with games being played at central locations has been considered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the NFL isn't currently considering such an idea.

Last month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said he is unsure when stadiums will be able to host sporting events again.

"As you look at any kind of coming back that large gatherings of people are going to be the last thing that we check off the box and say, 'OK, we should be doing that,'" DeWine said. "I think it's not going to be what the states do only, it's going to be what fans think is safe. What do restaurant customers think is safe? What do people who go to bars think is safe? If you go to a Reds game, do you think that's safe? So that is our challenge and the state's challenge is to do everything we can possible to make people feel safe and it be true that it be safer in regard to whatever activity they be engaged in."

The study also found that whenever sports do return, 88 percent of study participants who consider themselves avid sports fans plan to watch as much sports as they can. The study will continue to be conducted over the next few months in order to gauge fan attitudes toward sports and the coronavirus.

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