A food and beverage ban at the Scotiabank Arena might be the best public health thing, but not so much the MLSE’s pockets

When Peter Jüni called for more restrictions on professional sporting events in the province on Tuesday, he went beyond just suggesting limits on capacity.

The scientific director of Ontario’s independent volunteer science board also told the Star that concession stands should be closed at places like the Scotiabank Arena, home to the Maple Leafs and Raptors, to help ensure people wear their mask. during your visit, without interruptions to eat or drink. Jüni said it was an additional layer of protection in the battle against Omicron, the rapidly spreading variant of COVID-19 that has become Ontario’s toughest opponent in a matter of weeks.

Prime Minister Doug Ford acted on one of Jüni’s suggestions on Wednesday, announcing that any place in the province with capacity for 1,000 people or more will be capped at 50 percent of its capacity starting Saturday at 12 noon: 01 am

But the concessions will remain open to fans visiting the Scotiabank Arena.

The food and beverage ban may be in the public health interest, but sports business experts say it would be a significant economic hit, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per game, for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the company. Leafs and raptors.

“It’s not a bad idea when we’re trying to balance the health and safety side of the pendulum, but when we think about the high-margin revenue parts of the business, beer and alcohol are number one,” said Michael Naraine, professor. assistant in the department of sports management at Brock University.

A can of Bud Light costs something like $ 2.50 at the local LCBO, Naraine said. At Scotiabank Arena, it could cost $ 12. Not all of the profit margin lands in MLSE’s pocket, but a significant portion does.

In smaller markets, some sports organizations are happy to discount tickets for fans to sit down because they know beer, food and other high-margin income items like T-shirts and hats will recoup some of the loss, Naraine said. A $ 10 ticket on nosebleeds can be good compensation for the purchase of five Bud Lights, he added.

The NHL lost $ 3.6 billion (US) in revenue during the 2020-2021 pandemic season, according to an article by The Athletic earlier this year, with nearly $ 1.6 billion in lost ticket sales and another $ 2 billion in gambling losses. spending.

Former MLSE President and CEO Richard Peddie believes current President Larry Tanenbaum and the rest of his former organization have done an excellent job during the COVID-19 pandemic, but said there is no question that the company has “lost their shirt” since March 2020 and things may not be good for them now. The NBA, NHL and NFL are grappling with resurgence of COVID-19 cases of late.

With four fine dining restaurants in Scotiabank Arena and numerous point-of-purchase kiosks, Peddie agrees that food and drink make a significant contribution to bottom line results. But he said the venue won’t guarantee thousands of people always keep their masks on, making the Scotiabank Arena a Petri dish with or without food and drink options.

“I’m not sure that’s the solution,” Peddie said. “It really goes back to … you wonder if those people should be in the building.”

MLSE announced an improved skin protocol following Ford’s announcement Thursday, which will be available for Saturday’s Raptors game. Any attendee who does not wear their mask correctly, over the nose and mouth and safely under the chin, unless they are eating or drinking, could be kicked out of the Scotiabank Arena.

Naraine said restrictions such as the removal of concessions could make fans hesitate to return to games in the future, could affect employment within the MLSE and other companies that depend on the MLSE, and could create more inequalities between Canadian teams in the NHL. and the NBA. and their US counterparts, who will likely continue to earn income from key streams outside of ticket sales.

Having something is better than nothing, Naraine said, whether that means games without food or drink, games with a half-crowd, or games in front of no crowds.

But on the business side of the delicate balance between health and income, saying goodbye to food and drink at sporting events would come at a considerable cost.

“We have to be careful what is suggested, because I am certainly in favor of capacity limits,” Naraine said. “But I don’t think killing food and drink is going to solve Omicron’s community broadcast crisis here.”

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