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Financial impact of sports being canceled, held without fans amid pandemic


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Pro sports leagues and the college ranks are weighing their options when it comes to starting back up.

On Tuesday, Major League Baseball met with the Players Union to discuss revenue sharing, a crucial step in the league’s plan to start the season in July. 

But what exactly is the financial impact of a shortened or canceled season, for leagues that bring in billions in revenue?

“It really varies a lot from league to league, I do think advertising will be down a little bit, but you do have a lot of big, legacy sort of sponsors when you’re talking about pro sports, both at the league level and at the team level, and I think sponsors who have been with you for a long time are gonna stick with you,” Kristi Dosh, Sports Business Contributor for Forbes, said. 

But advertising isn’t the only revenue source. 

Major League Baseball has said 40 percent of its profits are from game day revenue, like tickets and concessions. 

In college football, that number is closer to 75 or 80 percent but even without fans, the financial incentive to play looms large.

“At least if you can resume, you can get TV money, and that’s still a huge source of revenue in pro sports and in college sports, so I think that’s why, it’s one reason why, you see the big push to come back even if we can’t have fans there,” Dosh said. 

But if games do resume without fans, it isn’t just the leagues and teams that will be missing out on revenue, stadium employees, radio stations, and many more are already feeling the financial loss.

“We’ve seen layoffs across sports radio, and you have that trickle down effect with people who work in hotels and were used to big events coming to town, the valet who relies on tips for big events like that, the small restaurants that are around the stadium that rely on people coming out to games,” Dosh said. 

Whether or not sports are able resume in 2020 and whether or not they do so without fans the economic toll will be significant, and widespread.

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