Saturday, September 12, 2020

The cost of losing fans at games runs much deeper than just the stadiums

By Zachary Baru

In response to COVID-19, many professional and collegiate sports decided to ban fans at stadiums and arenas, but just how far does the economic and personal loss run for those with sports industry-related jobs?

To look at this accurately, one could start by looking at the stadiums and arenas themselves, and work out to all of those affected in the cities in towns where the games are played.  It becomes apparent that many who are affected do not actually work for the sports teams, or in some cases, may not refer to themselves as sports-related employees.  The reality, however, is that sports is a major economic driver in any town, city, state or region.  And while closing games off to fans may be the right public safety decision, it is a major economic loss for all those affected.  Lets take a closer look at who those people are.

If you started at the stadium or arena, you would first find many ticket agents and customer service agents helping fans.  You would see security outside of the venue and throughout the inside of the stadium or arena.  It should be noted that some of the security staff would be retained for games even without fans.  

Next, you would find a long list of food-related employees.  One of the most notable losses are those serving food up and down the stands.  But there are still a long list of other employees at concession stands, others as servers or bartenders, and others as dishwashers, bar backs, and of course, managers supervising the concession stand, in-venue restaurant or bar.  

Without fans, there is a smaller need for public parking, and this means the loss of parking attendants.  Especially at large stadium events or even arena events, parking attendants can employ a large amount of people.  It is easy to overlook parking, but this is an area that is hard hit by the loss of having fans. 

One of the last areas that will be impacted are team employees working in the fan relations department.  Many teams will have different names for these employees, and sometimes they may be unpaid interns, but regardless, they still offer a key opportunity for those seeking experience in the sports industry.  Without fans, these employees are not needed.

It is safe to say, as you leave the idea of the venue, that already a great deal of jobs have been lost.  But unfortunately, this is really is just one part of the economic affect.  One of the first areas outside of the venue that will see a monetary loss are the restaurants and bars.  There are two major issues here: first, the business owners, many of them small businesses, who see a major loss of revenue.  But secondly, the fact that many of the employees at these businesses are often college-aged and using their wages toward paying for their education.  Added to the loss of in-school learning, students can easily become one of the hardest hit demographics of the pandemic.  The restaurants and bars near the venues depend on the stadiums and arenas for pre and post-game business, and become extremely hard hit when fans are absent from the venues.

The restaurant issue runs a little deeper than just the business owners and staff.  It becomes a municipal and state issue when the loss of local and state taxes are figured in.  Local and state governments depend on these tax revenues, and have seen major losses during the pandemic.

When examining the outside of the venues, restaurants and bars are not the only business affected.  Shops see a similar loss, and even taxi and ride-share drivers that typically see a large surge in traffic from these events.  The local and state tax revenue from both of these areas should also be noted, and adds up to a major loss for governments.

The last area we will examine, although there are arguably others, will be hotels.  This is a major industry with a lot of parts affected.  Hotels near venues will still get teams, team staff, league staff, referees, and a great deal of media, but one big part of their revenue will be missing: fans.  The loss of fans represents a major loss of revenue for the hotels, affecting the staffing levels including front desk agents, managers, room service, restaurant servers, restaurant managers, dishwashers, bartenders, bar backs, and maintenance.  No fans, means less patrons, meaning less hours or jobs for all of these staff members that keep hotels running each and everyday.  It should also be noted that while many hotels are corporate-owned, plenty are also independently owned or franchises owned by local business owners, who are also greatly affected.

This list could possibly be continued, but the issue is clear - the loss of fans at sporting events is a massive loss for the entire community.  It runs far deeper than the arenas and stadiums where the games are played, affecting millions of people just trying to make a living.  Whatever your position on the COVID-19 response is, and politics aside, the fact remains that there is a real affect of removing fans from games.  It becomes apparent that just as much as the teams are affected, it is the people around the teams who are also very much affected.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at  Zach also writes and

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