The NFL will allow 14,500 masked fans into the Super Bowl in Tampa on Feb. 7, plus 7,500 vaccinated health care workers who will go for free—that seat scarcity sent ticket prices on resale sites soaring to record highs this week, after the final matchup of Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay was set.
But attending an in-person sports event remains controversial, and in the eyes of many Americans, too risky. The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is changing that calculus for many, but not for a majority.
The latest Seton Hall Sports Poll, first shared with Yahoo Finance, finds that 40% of U.S. adults are ready to attend an outdoor sports event once they’ve had the vaccine, which is an improvement from just 28% when the question was asked in November and did not mention the vaccine.
32% surveyed say they are willing to attend an indoor sports event once they’ve had the vaccine, up from 21% in November.
A slightly larger proportion is still not comfortable attending a sports event, even with the vaccine: 41% said no to an outdoor sports event once they’ve had the vaccine, 49% said no to an indoor sports event.
Unsurprisingly, Americans who self-identify as sports fans are more ready to go to games.
57% of sports fans say they’ll attend an outdoor sports event after they’ve had the vaccine, 46% say they’ll attend an indoor event.
The survey of 1,522 U.S. adults was conducted from Jan. 22 through Jan. 25 and has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.
The survey numbers are encouraging compared to a few months ago, when a vaccine wasn’t yet a reality. And if you ask Charles Grantham, the former NBA Players Association executive director who is now director of the Center for Sport Management at Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall, the numbers are “encouraging for sports leagues and their players, who last March could see no end in sight.”
But the fact that a larger number of people still can’t imagine attending a sports event even with a vaccine is also a reminder for leagues—many of which have begun or are about to begin their second pandemic season—that hosting in-person fans is likely to remain a contentious issue and will continue to take a toll on league revenue.
Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and specializes in sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.