In terms of our target demographic (males and females aged between 18 and 30) What are the most popular sports in terms of watching and playing in the UK? Does this alter greatly by season?

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In terms of our target demographic (males and females aged between 18 and 30) What are the most popular sports in terms of watching and playing in the UK? Does this alter greatly by season?

Hello! Thank you for your request on sports viewing and participation in the UK. In short, the playing and viewing of sports in the UK vary by season. Men spend an average of 5 hours per week watching sports on television, with football being the most popular. Women, on the other hand, spend less than half that time watching sports on television, with tennis being the most popular among this demographic. Swimming is the most popular sport with regards to participation. Football is the most watched sporting event among millennials. Ice hockey, boxing, and mixed martial arts are gaining in popularity among the millennial population, while horse racing, athletics, and rugby are declining in viewership. Below, you will find a deep dive of my findings.


I extensively searched through industry reports and trusted media sites to answer this query. While there is a wealth of information available on the changing viewership habits of millennials (ages 18-30), most of this is centered around the fact that they now view sports using online methods instead of traditional methods of television or in-person. I was able to find some statistics specific to millennial preferences for sports viewing, which I have included below. The information and statistics provided with regards to gender differences, popularity of viewing by sport, and popularity of participation by sport are not specific to the millennial age range, but are the only statistics that were located throughout this exhaustive search.


The Premier League is considered the "sporting behemoth" of the UK. The most recent season showed dwindling television viewership of the sport, particularly among the millennial population. As game clips are immediately available via streaming, live apps, and social media, the younger generation is turning to these channels to stay updated, as opposed to watching an entire event on television.

With regards to specific sports, football is still considered the most popular among millennials in the UK, with 47% saying the watch the sport. Other sports, such as ice hockey, mixed martial arts, and boxing, are becoming more popular among the millennial population. Meanwhile, rugby, athletics, and horse racing are experiencing decreased viewership.


Males and females in the UK have differing opinions with regards to sports. While British men spend an average of 5 hours per week, or 2 years of his life, watching sports on television, women spend half this time engaged in the same activity.

The favorite sport among men is football (48%), followed by tennis (35%), rugby (26%), and athletics (24%). Women, on the other hand, prefer tennis over other sports.


Women's elite sport is on the rise with regards to viewership in the UK. A 2015 survey showed 57% of men and 55% of women report being more interested in women's elite sport, compared to two years ago. Forty percent of men and 37% of women reported watching the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Viewing sporting events in person decreased slightly from 2015 to 2016. Total gates at sporting events throughout the UK saw 69.8 million visitors in 2016, down 1% from 2015, which saw 70.5 million in attendance. Wimbledon was the most attended sporting event in the UK in 2016, with 494,000 attendees. Overall, football events saw the greatest attendance through the year at 45.2 million. Below, you will find a list of the top 10 major sporting events in the UK, by attendance:

1. Wimbledon Tennis Championships - 494,000
2. F1 British Grand Prix - 327,000
3. Royal Ascot Horse Racing - 295,000
4. Cheltenham Festival Horse Racing - 261,000
5. ATP World Tennis Finals - 252,000
6. The Open Golf Championship - 173,000
7. Badminton Horse Trials - 160,000
8. Moto GP Silverstone - 156,000
9. Burghley Horse Trials - 155,000
10. Epsom Derby Horse Racing - 154,000

The above figures indicate that sports viewership is based somewhat on the major events occurring during a particular season.


The most recent statistics on sports participation in the UK that could be found were from 2015; however, they indicate a decrease in overall participation over the past few years. Below, you will find a list of the sports with the highest participation rates throughout the UK:

1. Swimming - 2.89 million
2. Athletics - 1.96 million
3. Football - 1.94 million
4. Cycling - 1.8 million
5. Golf - 772,800
6. Tennis - 424,300
7. Cricket - 189,400
8. Rugby Union - 166,400
9. Rugby League - 150, 100
10. Boxing - 140,000


To wrap it up, the most popular sport for viewing in the UK is football, while the most popular sport for participation is swimming. Males spend approximately twice the amount of time viewing sports compared to females. Sports viewership among millennials is down; however, football remains the most popular among this population.

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