MANHASSET, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the second day in a row on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo urged pro sports teams to develop plans to play games without fans, but on television, if they could make it work economically. Cuomo first made such comments during his daily coronavirus press briefing in Buffalo on Monday. He reiterated them on Long Island a day later.
“To the extent they can start, I encourage them to start. The state will work with them to start,” Cuomo said Tuesday.
The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association seasons were put on hold in March due to the coronavirus. The start of the Major League Baseball season has been delayed. It’s unclear when any of those leagues will play another game.
The National Football League regular season is scheduled to start in September.
“The teams, they want to get back to playing in whatever capacity they can. But they want to be safe. They’re going to try to work with the governor here,” said Sal Capaccio, who is the Buffalo Bills beat reporter for WGR-AM, the sideline reporter on the team’s radio broadcasts, and a News 4 contributor.
Such a plan would likely come with a cost, however. A Forbes analysis found the Bills alone would lose out on $104 million in revenue this upcoming season if games were played without fans. Forbes found all 32 teams would lose $5.5 billion league-wide.
“I don’t think it’s going to have an impact right now,” said Capaccio. “I think where you’d see the impact though is maybe in the future. Some of these revenue streams are tied to the salary cap. They’re tied to how teams operate in the future.”
A spokesperson for Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which has several properties including the Bills and the Buffalo Sabres directed an inquiry regarding Cuomo’s offer to the respective sports leagues.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the league is preparing to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased safety measures for players, personnel, and attendees.
“We will continue to make decisions based on the latest advice of medical and public health officials, as well as in full compliance with current and future government regulations,” McCarthy said in part of a statement.
We are preparing to play the 2020 NFL season as scheduled and with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees. We will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this off-season, demonstrating that we can safely and efficiently conduct key activities, such as free agency, the virtual off-season program and the 2020 NFL Draft. We will continue to make decisions based on the latest advice of medical and public health officials, as well as in full compliance with current and future government regulations. Our primary focus will be on protecting the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel and our communities.Brian McCarthy, NFL Spokesperson
A spokesperson for the NHL did not return a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Minor League Baseball’s Buffalo Bisons are waiting to hear from Major League Baseball on what will happen to their season.
“We rely on fans being in the ballpark,” said Mike Buczkowski, President of Rich Baseball Operations, the Bisons parent group. “Major League Baseball and the other major sports can play because they have revenue coming in from television if they are able to put the games on.
“Minor League Baseball’s business model really relies on people being at the ballpark.”
Buczkowski said the Bisons could withstand the loss of an entire season, while admitting it would still be a financial burden.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.