Sport unites people around the world. Professional athletes, amateur players, hobbyists and spectators all come together to watch and play their favourite game.
While some sports attract international broadcast rights and huge participant numbers, others are more refined and cater to a local audience. There are some big differences from one region to the next. So, what are the most popular sports in each region?
There is no doubt that football is the most widely loved sport in Europe. Millions flock to the big games every week, from the near 100,000 capacity Camp Nou stadium (home of FC Barcelona) to the 99,000 capacity Wembley Stadium (home of English Football), it’s safe to say that many passionate supporters all over the world keenly watch European football.
Major leagues such as the English Premier League (EPL), Bundesliga (Germany) and the second-tier English Championship League top the total attendance figures within Europe. The unpredictable and passionate nature of English football makes teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool household names. The Premier League will generate £3.2 billion from international broadcasters between 2016-19, with the figure looking to increase substantially in the coming years. Sports betting is another big earner for Premier League clubs as it is now a billion dollar industry with more fans using websites such as Ghost Betting for the latest betting advice.
While football tops the list, other sports such as cricket, rugby, basketball, handball and ice hockey all have varying degrees of popularity in different parts of Europe. In the UK, sports betting has become a billion dollar industry with fans using websites such as Ghost Betting to find the latest betting advice on all major sports.
It may also come as a surprise that many traditional sports are still going strong. Shinty (a cross between lacrosse, hockey and ice hockey) is still played in Scotland and lays claim as one of the oldest games in the world.
As you would expect from such a vast and densely populated region, many different sports are popular throughout Asia. While the region represents a much wider variety of sporting entertainment, football still takes hold.
In China, the Chinese Super League is the nation’s biggest, with 16 teams competing. Big international signings of Carlos Teves (Shanghai Shenhua), and former Chelsea midfielder Oscar to Shanghai SIPG for £52 million has helped the sport grow. Running is also becoming increasingly popular in China, with over 1,100 marathons run in 2016, taking in US $11 billion. Badminton and table tennis are favourites in China, played at both amateur and professional levels.
Introduced to Japan in 1872, baseball is the country’s most popular sport with the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB) achieving tens of thousands of attendees each game.
With so many different sports across the region, it should come as no surprise that Asia is the fastest growing gambling market in the world right now. While a lot of the trading is carried out in unregulated gambling throughout Asia, the legal and regulated options for sports betting is increasing.
Australia is a nation of sports lovers! And there’s no doubt about it. Australian Rules Football is the favourite game of choice, attracting crowds of more than 100,000 on multiple occasions. The sport is unique to Australia and has roots in the Indigenous game Marn Grook. A fast-paced and captivating game, AFL keeps spectators on the edge of their seat and boasts some of the most dedicated fans in the country. The league consists of 18 teams who compete in an eagerly awaited winter season.
When summer rolls around, cricket mania takes over. Lengthy test matches dominate television screens across the country, and each state stops to watch the Boxing Day Test. Rugby is another popular sport in Australia, with two different types played, including Rugby League in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, as well as Rugby Union at an international level.
Huge crowds and massive television audiences show that Aussies public love to watch sport. However, participation rates also show that they’re not just spectators. With plenty of sunny days and a love for the outdoors, it’s easy to see why! According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, football (also known as soccer in Australia) is the most popular sport played across the country, with over 1 million children and adult participants. Golf, Australian Rules Football, netball and tennis follow closely behind.
North America (West)
It’s no surprise, Americans are passionate about sport. Some of the world’s most iconic sports stem from the continent. Basketball, for instance, was created in Massachusetts and is today a global multi-billion dollar enterprise.
In the United States, the most popular sport is, as you might expect, American Football. Fiercely competitive, and at times brutal, the territory-based game of touchdowns is ingrained within American culture. Basketball and baseball follow closely behind, attracting their fair share of spectators and international interest. The Super Bowl is typically watched by over 100 million TV viewers, while the Major League Baseball World Series boasts an average of 20 million viewers per game. Basketball has brought us charismatic stars such as Michael Jordan, Koby Bryant and Magic Johnson. These legends of the game have built the NBA into five billion dollar business with a global audience of 1+ billion spectators.
Ice hockey and lacrosse are the most widely supported games in Canada, and with cold winters it’s easy to see why! Hockey is, in fact, the official sport of Canada and the National Hockey League competes all year round.
South America (West)
Football is indisputably the most popular sport in South America. It was introduced in countries such as Brazil and Argentina by British railroad workers, while in Chile it is credited to visiting English sailors. While not on the grand scale of European football, Latin football is fiercely competitive and passionate, with teams like Sao Paulo from Brazil and Club Atlético Independiente from Argentina leading the way as the key powerhouses.
With a superb coastline of sandy beaches, volleyball has become the most popular sport in Venezuela, Colombia and even landlocked Bolivia. Whereas tennis takes the cake in Paraguay and Chile, a region responsible for producing clay court specialists, like Fernando González.
While Argentinians love their national sport of pato (a traditional game similar to polo), the most popular sport watched in Argentina today is boxing. Much of this national passion has been spurred on the Carlos Monzon, an Argentinian professional boxer who held the Undisputed World Middleweight Championship for seven years.
Most Popular Sports
Sport captivates people across the world. It’s a universal language we all understand, providing motivation, hope and inspiration to many people. But, out of all the sports watched and played throughout the globe, Football takes a resounding lead. What began in England in 1863, and quickly spread throughout Europe, is today the world’s favourite sport played across all seven continents.