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Don’t take me out to the ball game: Sports fans eager for empty arena games, hesitant to attend in person

As the German Bundesliga prepares to resume football matches, the first major sports league in Europe to do so, sports fans in Canada continue to pine for the resumption of hockey, basketball, baseball, and other major league sports that abruptly paused after NBA All-Star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11.

With conversations in this country now shifting to the mechanics of playing games in a safe and largely isolated capacity, a new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Canadian fans itching for the return of their favourite sports, undeterred by the possibility of watching athletes play without fans.

Indeed, among hard-core fans, approximately one-in-three say playing games in empty arenas is “great”, while more than half say it’s fine and “better than nothing”.

That doesn’t, however, mean that fans are ready to cheer on their teams in person any time soon. Asked about attending a game live next October or November, for free, only 35 per cent of the most ardent sports fans say they would go without reservation, while one-quarter say absolutely not. The rest, two-in-five (40%), say they would do some deliberating before making up their mind.

More Key Findings:

  • Canadians miss the NHL far more than any other professional sports league. Three-in-five (59%) say they are missing hockey, compared to 31 per cent who miss baseball and 28 per cent who miss basketball.
  • While Canadians are equally likely to say they would be disappointed with the cancellation of either the upcoming CFL or the NFL seasons (33% in each case), the loss of the CFL season would sting most in the Prairies, where three-in-five residents say they would be upset upon cancellation.
  • Golf generates the largest generational gap of any sport canvassed. Canadians 55 and over are twice as likely as their younger counterparts to say they miss watching the PGA (18-34 – 13%, 35-54 – 11%, 55+ – 28%).

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