There’s an age old debate about which sports have the most participants or attract the most spectators. We take a look at some statistics to see if we can find the answers.
Judging from the number of followers of the game, football (soccer) is the most popular sport of all. With more than 3 billion fans worldwide this is the sport that dominates all others.
Estimates suggest that the last football World Cup final was watched live by almost 1 billion people – a quite astonishing figure. In the UK alone there are almost 50,000 registered football clubs, with up to 3 million participants.
Leading football clubs attract attendances of considerably more than 50,000 spectators on a regular basis, with the Spanish heavyweights of Real Madrid and Barcelona often drawing massive crowds.
Football truly is the global game.
Next up in the listings is a sport that might surprise many: cricket. Although cricket seems to have failed to have caught the imagination in large parts of the world (North America, China and South America being examples), participation and viewing figures are extremely high.
These figures are largely boosted by the popularity of the sport in Asia, where India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all significant cricketing nations.
Elsewhere in the world, England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies all have international cricket teams, while the sport is growing in some parts of continental Europe (notably the Netherlands and Denmark).
The third most popular sport in the world is harder to judge, with figures conflicting. Some suggest basketball, undoubtedly the American sport with the largest global appeal.
Other leading contenders include tennis, field hockey (once again, a sport that has enormous appeal in the Indian sub-continent) and swimming.
A recent report in the UK suggested that the largest sports, in terms of participants, were walking and fishing. Although walking by not be classed as a sport by many, the inclusion of fishing on such a list may come as a surprise.
Though there is little agreement and such things are difficult to measure, it seems undeniable that football (soccer) remains the world’s most popular sport.