During the quarantine period, experts pointed to sports like tennis and golf as ones that could potentially return before major sports. This makes sense considering the lack of relative person-to-person contact these sports have. With the NFL and College Football season in limbo and other professional sports creating bubbles to keep their players safe, World Team Tennis has taken a different route.
Typically, World Team Tennis is played for about a month in the middle of the summer. Rosters are almost always comprised solely of American players looking to make a name for themselves.
This year, however, World Team Tennis has exploded. Not only are their matches being featured on ESPN every day, but the rosters are also hosting big-name players. Kim Clijsters, four-time Grand Slam Champion and future member of the Hall of Fame, is arguably the biggest name on the women’s side. The Bryan brothers, the best men’s doubles duo of all time, are also competing. Other notable players include current world number four Sofia Kenin, former Grand Slam Champion Sloane Stephens, Jack Sock and Genie Bouchard.
The attention that World Team Tennis has garnered is not the most surprising thing about it. Fans are in attendance.
The Greenbrier is playing host to World Team Tennis, and fans are allowed. Tickets are being sold in a way that allows six feet of separation between guests, masks are required when walking around the stadium and other guidelines are in place to ensure safety.
So far, no cases have been reported amongst fans, an excellent sign for the future of sports and their spectators.
Now that most sports leagues have a return-to-play plan in place, it’s time to consider what attendance will look like. World Team Tennis provides us with a good idea of how it might work. We will never see the same crowd we did before the pandemic – at least not until a vaccine is readily available. However, the fact that a smaller scale sporting event can go on with relatively no issues is a great sign.
World Team Tennis does not usually draw the same attendance as the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS and others, but its current plans can be used as a template for the future of those sports.
It is already expected that fans will be required to wear masks and limited tickets will be sold. Further measures World Team Tennis has used include not allowing concessions to be sold, staged entry, no on-site ticket sales and more. Implementing these into major sports could allow for fans to be in attendance. The question then becomes: will teams be willing to implement these with the financial impacts they could cause?
We would hope the answer is yes, but owners are businessmen with money always on their minds. It is something owners must decide on – if it is even an option to them. Some cities and states are canceling large gatherings, causing owners to lose even these options.
As is with everything coronavirus-related, only time will tell. It is a continually changing global disaster, and sports, ultimately, are not the most important industry to consider. We are left with the fact that it is, unfortunately, too early to tell what fan attendance will look like even later this year. However, looking at smaller sports like World Team Tennis could give us a better idea.