The numbers are in and it appears a peak of 20.1 million people in the UK tuned in to England’s first World Cup match – about one-third of the population. Encouragingly, about the same proportion (35.7 per cent) of adult Britons participates in a sport for at least one session of 30 minutes a week, according to data for 2008/2009.

The graph shows the UK’s 10 favourite sports, as measured by participation rates. The most popular is swimming, with seven in 100 people heading to the pool at least once a week – although its participation rate has been falling in the past few years. Football, cycling, athletics and golf, on the other hand, have had stable or rising take-up over the same period. All the other sports register marginal attendance rates – now and three years ago.

Some sports, of course, are more popular among specific demographic groups. One in five teenagers aged 16 to 19 years plays football, while not even one in 100 adult women does. Londoners are more likely than people in the north to take up athletics, as are those under 34. People older than 65, meanwhile, are more active golfers, while teenagers are keener than other groups on rugby, basketball and boxing.

An illustration depicting sport participation rates in 10 most popular sports in the UK

Get alerts on Life & Arts when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article