- Association football tops the ranking of the most popular sports in the UK.
- Certain sports, including football, cricket, and rugby, are more popular and endearing to the majority than others.
- The most favorite sports are a subject of debate at the workplace, a show of argumentative reports on T.V. screens, and a driving drug to sports enthusiasts displaying their ardent love in endless sports betting.
Sports in this modern era have transcended beyond being just activities for fun, but rather garner loyalists, fans, and revenues and even play pivotal roles in strengthening economic growth.
The United Kingdom, with a population averaging 60 million, is blessed with various sports and is no different.
The significance of sports has been sewn deeply into the fabric of cultural heritage in modern British society.
Therefore, it is justifiable to understand the most popular sports in the United Kingdom and their impacts on British society.
Participants: 377 thousand
Perhaps you may not be a fan of rowing; however, the fierce rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford is no secret in the U.K.
The U.K. happens to be one of the few countries with traditional sacred ties to rowing. Hence it is no surprise it falls among its list of famous sports.
There are more than 550 rowing clubs in the U.K., right from the University level to the national level. On average, 300,000 people participate in rowing annually.
Participants: 493 thousand
Boxing is wildly popular in the United Kingdom. At the very least, 15% of Brits are aware of the sport; however, the immense popularity of the sport needs to reflect in its participation.
The number of participants in boxing in the U.K. has declined in recent years, with only 493,000 participating in the sport in a 2021 annual survey.
Yet, despite its low participation, boxing influences different aspects of U.K. everyday life.
For instance, this activity has over 1000 clubs in the U.K. for all genders and ages with considerable participants.
The activity is also used as a means to combat and prevent gang and knife crime in the U.K., with charities such as Boxing futures and Gloves Up Knives Down tapping into the influence of the sport to change lives for the better.
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Participants: 2 million
Swimming may not be a popular sport to reckon with globally despite being a common activity; however, in the U.K., competitive swimming sits among the list of its most popular sports.
Millions of Brits follow and participate in swimming for both competitive and recreative purposes.
An estimated 2 million people engage in swimming activities at least twice a month in the U.K., a decline to 2020 data report, showing an average of four million people had been involved in swimming activity.
Nevertheless, in the face of this slight decline, the achievement of the U.K. in Olympic swimming events, with the likes of Mark Foster helping the team U.K. win numerous medals, is still above par, which isn’t surprising.
Swimming is encouraged at schools and University levels across the U.K.
Participants: 3 million
Notwithstanding the fact the U.K. is home to one of the iconic Grand Slam tournaments, the Wimbledon Championships, which attracts fans of the sport globally during the event, It may be surprising to many tennis happens to be one of the most popular sports in the U.K.
This year’s Wimbledon event hits an all-time high viewership of 53.8 million streams which signifies increased interest in the sport in the U.K.
However, average tennis fans in the U.K. fall within the 60+ age group, with the top gun officials in the sports navigating strategies to capture the attention of gen-z.
Overall, 12% of the U.K. population engaged in the sport.
Participants: 4.8 million
With specific changes in the style of play and fashion to how golf clubs bring in new players, golf has witnessed increased popularity over the years, not just in the U.K. but globally.
The pandemic period proved to be the turning point for immense interest in golf in the U.K. due to its ability to be played safely and its health benefits.
Prior to Covid-19, only about 2.5 million people participated in golf in the U.K.; however, in 2020, the figures surged to a whopping 5.2 million.
As of 2021 latest data shows that golf still boasts an average of 4.8 million participants across the U.K.
Aside from the pandemic attracting increased interest in the sport, the United Kingdom has a long-standing history with golf as a sport. For one, it is home to some of the most iconic golf courses in the world.
Aside from being the ground for several prestigious golf tournament, the United Kingdom host one of the oldest amateur golf event in the world, the challenge cup. It is no wonder golf ranks among its most popular sport.
England has approximately 656,000 registered golf players, Scotland and Ireland boost an average of 180,000 registered golf players, and Wales has 183,000 registered golf players.
5. Horse Racing
Estimated fans: 6 million
Horse racing may not be popular as football or cricket, but it certainly ranks among the top 10 popular sports in the U.K.
This sport generates over 3.4 billion GBP for the U.K. economy.
This isn’t surprising, considering the U.K. is home to several prestigious horse racing events attracting millions of spectators and raking in billions of British pounds.
Annually, the U.K. hosts over 10,000 horse racing events, with the most popular ones including the Royal Ascot, Aintree Grand National, and Cheltenham horse racing festivals.
Participants: 6.9 million
Athletics is yet another sport that continues to garner interest and popularity in the U.K.
Data from recent years suggest that an estimated 7 million people practice one form of athletic activity in the U.K. at least twice a month.
Approximately 151,000 people reportedly participate in either track or field events on a monthly basis in England. Scotland, as of 2021, has about 148 athletic clubs.
Athletics as a sport has such an impact on the U.K. economy, which reflect in its annual turnover, which is an average of 25 million British pounds.
Estimated fans: 12 million
Rugby is yet another immensely popular sport in the U.K., with a fanbase of at least 12 million and 27% of its fanbase falling within the age group of 16-29.
However, the sport is divided into two groups: rugby league and rugby union, with the former being the most famous of the duo.
Despite sharing similarities, rugby league and rugby union differ slightly in rules of play.
What is known as rugby union in the U.K. is the globally celebrated sport of rugby.
Although rugby league isn’t the most popular sport in the U.K., the game still wakes rivalry, bed topics of debate, and lights up the atmosphere, especially when a derby fixture is on the list.
Estimated fans: 16 million
Cricket, also known as the national game of England, ranks among the most popular sports in the U.K., with 18% of the U.K. population watching live game events, 2% participating in the sport, and 19% showing interest in the game.
Despite its humble origin, limiting only high-profile government officials and military personnel to indulge in the game, the sport has risen to become famous both in the U.K. and beyond, with over 20 crickets clubs and thousands of smaller teams. Today, anyone and everyone indulge in the game.
Yet, notwithstanding, recent data suggest, despite cricket’s popularity, the number of participants is on a decline; nonetheless, cricket still remains one of the U.K.’s most popular sports.
1. Association Football
Estimated fans: 25 million
It isn’t surprising football takes the top spot on this list. Beyond the U.K., football is, without a doubt, the most popular sport in the world.
Its extreme popularity has seen it been a tool to address prevalent social issues such as racism.
At least 40 percent (over 25 million people) of the combined U.K. population watched football sports events.
In England alone, about 1.5 million adults participate in the sport for recreation or as a competition.
Scotland accounts for 33.3% of children between the age of 5 to 16 that engage in the sport on a monthly basis and 3% of adults that also participate in the sport at least once monthly.
From a financial point of view, football is a prolific source of revenue across countries in the U.K.
One of the most watched leagues, the English Premier League roped in a whopping 2.3 billion British pounds in the 2019/2020 season alone, exclusive of commercial and sponsorship deals.
In Wales, 47% of its population admitted to being fans of football, over 45% pledged to rugby, and 40% of children participate in this endearing sport.
The Top 10 Most Popular Sports in the UK
Below is a summary of the most favorite sports in the united kingdom according to their popularity, participants, and the number of fans.
|1||Association Football||25 Million Fans|
|2||Cricket||16 Million Fans|
|3||Rugby||12 Million Fans|
|4||Athletics||6.9 Million Participants|
|5||Horse Racing||6 Million Fans|
|6||Golf||4.8 Million Participants|
|7||Tennis||3 Million Participants|
|8||Swimming||2 Million Participants|
|9||Boxing||493 Thousand Participants|
|10||Rowing||377 Thousand Participants|
Millions of people across the U.K. participate in one form of sports activity or another, either professionally or recreationally.
Although certain sports may presently experience a decline in participation and popularity, they still continue to attract a considerable number of participants.
The most popular sports in the UK ranked above improve physical and mental health, help people fit into a social group, and instill habits for an active life.
The statistics of people who are supporters and lovers of different forms of sports in the United Kingdom highlight the importance of sport as not just an activity but an integral part of the culture and way of life Brits, grossing across health and physical benefit to significantly impacting the economy.