The Most Popular Sports in the United Kingdom

Football is an extremely popular sport in the United Kingdom.
Football is an extremely popular sport in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is notable for the diversity of its sporting interest. Sports play an important role in promoting integration and in nurturing talents in the country. The country has given birth to several major international sports such as football, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, and track and field among others. Sport is a major source of entertainment in the UK with thousands of spectators filling stadiums and arenas to cheer on their favorite teams. Sports are also major sources of revenue in the UK for players, government, and investors. Here are some of the most popular sports in the UK.

10. Boxing

Boxing gloves are an integral part of boxing.

The evolution of modern boxing is credited to the UK with the country playing a major role in the codification of the Queensberry Rules in the 19th century. Professional boxing in the UK offers some of the largest purses to elite professional boxers who become instant celebrities in the country. The professional boxing is governed by the British Boxing Board of Control while the amateur boxing is governed separately by bodies in each home nation. Boxing in the UK is recovering from a decline caused by a growth of other sports such as football that offered better income than was traditionally available to world boxing champions. British boxers have enjoyed great success at the international levels, particularly in the London 2012 Olympics.

9. Horseracing

Horse jockeys racing horses.

The UK has a long history of horseracing that dates back to the Roman times and has deep royal history. There are many racecourses all over the UK with an annual attendance of about 6 million people and who watch over 13,000 races. The sport is ranked among the top five sports in the UK in terms of media coverage. There are two forms of horseracing in the UK - National Hunt and Flat Racing. National Hunt takes place in winter and involves jumping over hurdles. In Great Britain, the sport is governed by British Horseracing Authority while in Northern Ireland it is governed by Horse Racing Ireland.

8. Tennis

A tennis player prepares to deliver a serve.

The history of tennis in the UK dates back hundreds of years. The most prestigious tennis event in the UK (and the world!) is the Wimbledon Championship. The championship is one of the four grand slams with others being the French Open (Roland-Garros), the US Open Tennis Championships, and the Australian Open. Although tennis is an individual sport, it’s the third most popular sport in the UK attracting sports lovers, tourists, and critics worldwide. Tennis in the UK is governed by Lawn Tennis Association. The body invests most of the profits from the tournaments in the game with the hope of producing world champions. The UK has delivered some of the finest tennis players in the history of the game including Greg Rusedski, Tim Henman, Andy Murray, Anne Keothavong, and Elena Baltacha.

7. Swimming

The UK has the appropriate facilities to train swimmers of all capabilities.

Swimming is one of the largest sports in England by participation. It is even larger than athletics according to Sports England (2014). Young people are fond and fanatical about swimming with the majority taking part in several swimming events just for fun. British Swimming, an umbrella body formed by swimming organization in different countries of the UK, is responsible for managing and promoting the sport in the UK. The UK sends a large representation to the international swimming events and has continued to enjoy great success in events such as Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games. There are also club competitions at all levels throughout the UK that identify and nurture swimming talents across all age groups.

6. Rounders

Ball and bat used in rounders.

Rounders, also known as bat-and-ball base-running, has been played in England since Tudor times. It is popular among British and Irish school children. In the UK, rounders is regulated by Rounders England. Games played in England involve smaller bats and balls and are often played on smaller pitches than games in Ireland, which are governed by the Gaelic Athletics Association. Rounders is mainly popular in England while it is rarely played in other UK constituent countries. However, the sport is gaining popularity and recognition as one of the most important sports in the country due to the interschool and regional competitions that take place within the UK.

5. Speedway

Speedway riders compete at the Speedway Grand Prix. Editorial credit: Stefan Holm /

The sport of speedway in the UK has changed a bit since its inception in the 1920s. The country has three domestic speedway leagues - Elite, Premium, and National Leagues. The Elite League is the highest domestic league in the country while the National League is a third tier league intended to nurture young talents across the country. To prevent teams from becoming too powerful and to ensure competitiveness in the competition, the Elite and Premier Leagues have introduced point limits. The Speedway Grand Prix which takes place annually in Cardiff is the main world championship. England hosts the semi-finals of the Speedway World Cup every year.

4. Cricket

Cricket equipment.

Cricket is England’s national sport although the country itself does not have its own team. Instead, it fields a team jointly with Wales. Cricket was first embedded in the UK before spreading to the rest of the Commonwealth C. There are 18 professional cricket clubs in the UK with the majority in England. The clubs compete in first-class County Championship each summer. The championship consists of two leagues in which matches are played over four days. Although Scotland and Ireland have their own cricket teams, the game is not as popular in the two countries as it is in England and Wales.

3. Field Hockey

A field hockey player.

Field hockey ranks high on the list of popular sports enjoyed in the UK. The Great Britain field hockey teams have been successful in the international games with the men’s team winning the 1988 Olympics and the women’s team winning the 2016 Olympics. However, the success of UK hockey has wavered over recent years. It receives less television coverage than other sports. The success of the women’s team in the 2016 Olympic Games has raised the sport’s profile in the UK.

2. Rugby Football

Rugby players.

Rugby was once associated with the elite in the UK. However, its popularity has increased over time so much that it is one of the major sports in the country. Rugby is sponsored by the government of the UK and governed by the Rugby Football League. There are two different types of rugby played in the UK with each having their own rules - rugby union and rugby league. Both have separate leagues and national teams in the constituent countries of the UK. The national teams compete in different competitions including the rugby union Six Nation Championship and rugby league’s Super League.

1. Football

A football.

Football is an extremely popular sport played in the United Kingdom. In Every country of the United Kingdom has its football association and dozens of leagues. The top tournament in England is called the FA cup. The game of football possibly came from ancient China. Association football, however, has its roots in England, where it remains incredibly commonplace. It is also the most popular sport in the world.


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