The UK may be a small island of 60 million or so people, but it is a global player in the world of sport. The country is known to be the place where football and rugby were first played, the home of the most famous tennis venue, as well as the origin of cricket. Here we explore the top 10 sports that are played in the UK – and maybe it will give us an insight into why sports are so essential to UK life and culture.
Without a doubt, Football is the national game of the United Kingdom. There are nearly 7000 clubs playing each week in the country and the professional leagues are worth a massive £22 billion. The English Premier League is shown in 188 of 193 countries around the world and is, therefore, one of the most followed leagues full stop.
However, the popularity of the EPL heads a sport that has depth and breadth. There are football clubs that many around the world may never have heard of that demand fanatical support in the country – check out the supporters of Accrington Stanley as an example! Still, names such as Man. Utd., Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea have international pulling power – and put the UK at the centre of the sporting world.
The suggestion that Football is the national game of the UK is not without contention. Cricket is also a major sport enjoyed by millions in the country and has been played for well over a century. It is estimated that about 65% of all people in the UK watch some cricket at some point – though those playing has reduced significantly. The introduction of shorter form games is thought to be the best way of restoring cricket to its heights – with the 100 game coming soon and the Twenty20 competition a highly popular spectator sport.
The national Cricket team has enjoyed much success in recent years, winning an astonishing world cup final against New Zealand. At times such as these, cricket enjoys as much fervour as Football in the country.
Rugby in the UK is dominated by Rugby Union, which enjoys a lot more prestige than its sister sport, Rugby League. However, even in Rugby Union, it is the national team that has most attention. There are several UK teams that garner many fans thanks to their participation in a Super League that crosses Europe.
Thanks to Andy Murray, English tennis has started to be taking seriously again. The recent victory in the Davis Cup for the national team makes it a global player again. However, it is definitely the presence of Wimbledon as a Grand Slam tournament that seals Tennis as a favourite sport in the UK.
Badminton is maybe not a sport well known around the world, but it has steadily risen in popularity in the UK since 1893. It is one of the fastest-growing sports, in terms of everyday participation. When it comes to international competitions, such as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, the Brits do really quite well.
#6 Horse Racing
Horse racing is a huge spectator sport in the UK. It is also the focus of much betting, and it is said to be worth an astonishing £3.7 bill to the British economy. Due to the interest of punters, the media covers the sport of horse racing closely, with Sky offering a bespoke subscription channel called Sky Sports Racing.
With some massive stars such as Jessica Ellis and Mo Farah, athletics has enjoyed much success over recent years. It is a sport that is experienced by every Brit at school and the national team enjoys much support during major games. The UK enjoys a significant reputation in international athletics.
Adam Peaty has become something of a one-man medal machine in the breast-stroke, reviving Uk hopes in the pool. Most Brits enjoy swimming recreationally and as a means of competition, so it feels right that the nation becomes a major contender at international competitions once more.
There was a historic moment when the English team beat the Australians on their home turf to become the world champions. Since this historic victory, Netball has seen a resurgence in media popularity. Many Brits would say that Netball has always been at the centre of UK sport, as it is regularly played by tens of thousands across the country. The 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool enjoyed sell-out crowds and this sport may have found its moment in the spotlight.
#10 Hockey Field hockey, which is a brutal and high-intensity sport, is played by hundreds of thousands of Brits each week. There is a thriving domestic league and the national team has enjoyed continued success on the international stage.