Major League Baseball started its shortened 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic with the hope that fans could return to the ballpark in a matter of weeks. Now at the one-third mark of the season, it seems MLB is no closer to permitting fans into games.
The ongoing season has already been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Between outbreaks, a lost MiLB season and even more radical changes, things just haven’t been the same. Unfortunately, with the pandemic worsening, it sounds like things will remain the same for quite some time.
When will fans be allowed to attend MLB games?
Once MLB released its 2020 schedule, the league made it clear fans wouldn’t be permitted inside the ballpark until further notice. While many prepared for the short-term absence of stadium revenue, clubs like the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins anticipated having fans in attendance at some point this year.
In recent weeks, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the calls for MLB to allow fans to attend games have intensified. Among the teams seeking permission, the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies have pushed for clearance to allow limited crowds into their ballparks.
On Monday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with owners from all 30 teams about the remainder of the 2020 season. During that conference call, he made it clear that the United States hasn’t made enough progress for fans to be brought back into stadiums.
“Given the state of the virus throughout the country and that most of our clubs do not have authorization from their local jurisdictions allowing for it, we are not able to consider hosting fans at this time,” an MLB spokesperson said, via The Athletic.
The decision is an obvious blow for every organization. Owners have counted on eventual clearance to welcome fans back into the seats, creating revenue that every organization has lost out on this season.
How do empty stadiums impact MLB’s revenue?
Coming off consecutive years of record-setting revenue, MLB is facing a far harsher reality this season. While television contracts still account for a majority of the profits the league generates, losing stadium revenue is a massive blow.
Early estimates projected MLB could lose more than $2 billion if the season didn’t start until July. In one of the league’s worst-case scenarios, a season without any fans in attendance, MLB could be at risk of seeing a 40% drop in its total revenue.
The financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have already started hitting teams. The Atlanta Braves reported a staggering economic hit from April-through-June and it will still be a problem without fans at the ballpark in July and August.
Unfortunately, this is the reality MLB and every other league is dealing with. Until a vaccine for the coronavirus is created and becomes widely available, stadiums will either be empty or at dramatically reduced capacity.