Whether it is taking part in a sport at a local leisure centre or performing at the highest level in the football Premier League or Six Nations rugby championship, sport plays a crucial role in the society of the United Kingdom.
With so many sports to choose from, what are the 10 most popular sports on the UK?
Football is without the doubt the most popular sport in the UK. If you travel to any town or village in the UK on a Saturday afternoon, you are highly likely to see a football match taking place. Even in midweek, people enjoy playing in local five-a-side leagues and the English Premier League is regarded as the top professional football league in the world. England reached the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup and Wales reached the semi-final of the 2016 European Championship, so football is ticking along nicely in the UK.
It may be dependent on good weather, something which is unreliable in the UK but there is no doubting the popularity of cricket. The England cricket team is successful and at the time of writing is ranked the number one team in the world for the One Day International format of the game. Much like football, you will find many towns and villages in the UK have cricket teams who play every weekend during the summer months. One way of understanding how popular this sport is throughout the whole country is to look at the current England team. Here you will see players who grew up in various different regions in England, from the north, the south and the midlands representing their country at the highest level.
You will find a big debate in Wales about the national sport of the country but rugby has long been considered the top sport by the Welsh. Other than Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and France, there are very few nations who can compete with England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland when it comes to rugby. Rugby is played at many schools, through college and university up to club level and those who are good enough go on to play the professional game.
Tennis is not as accessible for some as football or rugby but it remains one of the most popular sports in the UK. According to figures released by the Lawn Tennis Association in 2017, more people were playing tennis than previous years. It is perhaps no coincidence that there was a British player in the quarter-final of both the men’s and women’s Wimbledon draw that year.
The 2012 London Olympics was a huge boost for UK athletics, which continues to receive regular funding from UK Sport and the National Lottery. Superstars including Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill have also played a significant role in tempting people to try various disciplines from sprinting and hurdles to long-jump and javelin.
One glance at winners of the World Snooker Championship highlights how dominant players from the UK have been over the years. Since the beginning of the tournament in 1927 up until 2018, 90 of the 97 winners of the event come from the UK. Between 1981 and 2018, only one player outside the UK has won the World Snooker Championship and with snooker halls up and down Britain, it remains a popular sport.
Much like snooker, darts at the highest level has been dominated by British players. Other contenders have emerged, mainly from Holland but the bulk of the top players are still from the UK. Darts has seen somewhat of a resurgence in the UK in recent years and you will find people playing in pub teams as well as on their own board at home.
Clearly motor racing is not as easy a sport to get into as something like football or darts. However, up to and including the 2018 Formula 1 season, United Kingdom have won 18 Formula 1 Driver’s Championships, with the next best nation being Germany with 12 wins. At the time of writing, Lewis Hamilton holds the record for the second highest number of World Championship wins and could go on to become the greatest driver of all-time.
Golf is perhaps the one sport in the UK which has suffered most in terms of playing numbers over the past decade. The closure of golf courses has been well documented and plans are in place to try and make the sport more inclusive and family orientated. However, rarely will you find the official top ten world rankings without one British player involved and there were six UK players in the successful 2018 Ryder Cup winning team.
Boxing has long been a popular sport in the UK. Despite the number of participants being outweighed by the number of those watching from ringside and on television, boxing in the UK has recovered from a dip in recent years. British boxers have enjoyed plenty of success, especially since the London Olympics in 2012 and boxing is certainly moving in the right direction in the UK.