The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on sports, particularly baseball.
Major League Baseball play ended abruptly in March, and after lengthy negotiations agreed to a 60-game season starting in July. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave the Detroit Tigers the go-ahead to play ball, but fans will be banned from attending games.
According to Statista, the total economic impact to sports so far during the pandemic has cost the overall industry $8.22 billion. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told CNN the league will lose $4 billion because of the pandemic.
Rodney Fort, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology, said baseball’s recovery depends on how fans react to the shortened season.
“MLB claims it will lose $4 billion if there is no season. It’s a $15 billion or so ‘industry.’ This is a gigantic loss if it occurs,” Fort said. “Yet media contracts recently signed, and about to be signed, will break all previous records … a very important market signal that suggested the MLB will bounce back.”
Fort said the unknown aspect is how baseball fans take the new restrictions.
“The wild card is how fans rebound, and we have no historical idea on how that will occur,” he explained.
The damage to Minor League Baseball might be harsher, according to MiLB spokesperson Jeff Lantz. He described the impact as “crippling.” The ripple effect will go from players to concessionaires to ushers to front office personnel.
And if the future of the minors involves playing in empty stadiums, Lantz said the impact will be devastating.
“Not having fans in the seats is a nonstarter for us,” Lantz said.