Report: MLB Projecting to Lose $640K Per Game Without Fans Amid COVID-19

An aerial view shows the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, on May 9, 2020, during the novel coronavirus pandemic. - Events that involve mass gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, are unlikely to reopen until the threat of the novel coronavirus has largely passed. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

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Major League Baseball owners are preparing to lose $640,000 per game played without fans, according to league presentation obtained by Ronald Blum of the Associated Press. 

A recent virtual meeting between owners and players featured a 12-page report titled “Economics of Playing Without Fans in Attendance” in which the figure was offered by owners who determined the $640,000 mark using current prorated salaries of players. 

MLB owners are currently pushing for a revenue-sharing agreement with players that would mark a complete restructuring of baseball’s economic system. MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark has called the proposal a nonstarter.  

Blum notes the teams believe players will currently recoup 89 percent of revenue if they are able to play games this season:

“The figures were calculated by MLB and its clubs, and the frequently skeptical union already has requested a slew of documents from MLB.

“MLB said 2019 revenue was 39% local gate and other in-park sources, followed by 25% central revenue, 22% local media, 11% sponsorship and 4% other.

“Teams fears a second wave of the coronavirus would devastate finances if renewed government restrictions cause cancellation of the postseason, which brings in $787 million in media money. The document details who pays what: $370 million by Fox, $310 million by Turner, $27 million by ESPN, $30 million by the MLB Network and $50 million from international and other.”

(Editor’s note: Bleacher Report operates under Turner Sports.)

Players countered by arguing that many teams have ownership stakes in regional sports networks that would show games, allowing them to earn more revenue with more games played. 

In the original deal struck by owners and the Players Association, athletes agreed to a prorated portion of their salaries advanced through May 24, with MLB conceding a full year of service time to players if the season is canceled.

Under that scenario, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told a CNN town hall that owners could see losses of nearly $4 billion. 

According to Blum, MLB is projecting $1.788 billion in central office revenue for a proposed 82-game season, which would begin in early July, with a net of $1.345 billion after expenses.