Games Played Without Fans Could Prove Costly

Andy Berg Headshot

While the players on the field or court are the center of attention at any sporting event, it’s the fans and the tickets and concessions they buy that pay the bills.

Both professional and college athletics are now looking at the financial impact of holding games without fans, and the math is causing some concern.

Major League Baseball told players their prorated salaries would contribute to an average loss of $640,000 for each game over an 82-game season if those games were to be played in front of an empty stadium.

MLB has reportedly prepared a 12-page document that details the impact of COVID-19 on baseball. In all, the proposed 82-game season would still amount to a $4 billion loss, with players receiving 89 percent of total revenue for the season, according to the document, which was reported on by USA Today.

College football is coming to a similar realization as conferences and NCAA officials consider fanless games.

Without parking, concessions and ticket sales, college football would struggle to put on games. Add in the uncertainty of whether fans will even turn out during a pandemic, and college football this year looks nearly untenable.

“Fans are important because they provide revenue,” Stokan, the CEO of the Peach Bowl, told The New York Times.

Stokan said it’s still wait and see, as the decision to hold games without fans has not been made.  

“We’re a long way before that can be decided. Certainly we’re dealing in hypotheticals. We want to deal with the reality of situations.”

If colleges are set to lose money, the NFL will also take a big hit if games are played to empty stadiums.

According to, the NFL would lose more than $5.5 billion in revenue if games are played without spectators.

The Forbes report looked at how much stadium revenue each team brings in compared to their overall revenue. Stadium revenue includes the sum of tickets, concessions, sponsors, parking and team stores.

The Dallas Cowboys are the top-ranking team in terms of total revenue, raking in $950 million overall, with $621 million of that coming from their stadium. Should games be held without fans, presumably a large chunk of that $621 million could disappear.

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