A report based on interviews with more than 1,800 spectators at pilot events revealed that most fans trusted organisers to maintain safety and other attendees to respect the guidelines.
Overall, experts found that the return to sports grounds was a positive experience.
Researchers surveyed spectators at pilot football, horse racing, cricket, basketball and snooker events between 26 July and 3 October.
The indoor and outdoor events took place after the UK government allowed a limited number of sporting activities to reopen after the first Covid-19 lockdown period.
Around nine in ten spectators were confident that event organisers were able to keep fans safe.
On average, the respondents believed the safety measures – such as spaced-out seats and increased availability of hand sanitizer – were important in mitigating the spread of Covid-19.
They also reported high levels of adherence to the safety measures by themselves and by other spectators.
Fans said the experience was positive because it helped regain a sense of normality. They enjoyed the collective experience of attending live sporting events with other fans, and said they were proud of their sports club and fellow fans for keeping one another safe.
Researchers said the two main factors for spectators feeling safe were the perception of the organisers and of the behaviour of other spectators.
Experiences such as sources of information, events signage, stewards, announcements during events, online information, and pre-event communications also contributed to feelings of trust, the team found.
However, the results also point to some areas for improvement and additional considerations for spectator experience during Covid-19, researchers say.
The study found that, due to group dynamics, attendees might believe that other spectators would not create a risk to their own health at events – even if they were not supporting the same team – as the other attendees would work together to keep them safe.
Researchers recommended that organisers plan for attendees wanting to perform previously routine behaviours that could now put crowd members at risk, for example chanting, hugging, or sharing beverages.
The study by the University’s Edinburgh School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences was carried out jointly with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) and UK Sport.
The study was carried out to understand the experience of spectators who attended pilot events in the UK. As well as reporting confidence in attending events recurring themes were that fans were motivated to adhere to Covid-19 guidance so that they could support their clubs and enjoy the collective experience with other fans. The spectators reported that being able to enjoy the sporting events together helped mitigate the consequences of social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic.