Over 70 million people enjoy live sports events in UK

21 December 2015 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
More news on

More than 70 million people visited professional sporting events in the UK in 2015, up from 67 million in 2014, research by Deloitte Sports Business Group finds. The biggest event, in terms of attendance, was the Rugby World Cup, for which 2.5 million tickets were sold. Football, however, continues to be the clear favourite, being attended by 43.4 million visitors in 2015.

Deloitte Sports Business Group, the specialist sports practice of Big Four firm Deloitte, recently released its research into the sporting landscape in terms of attendance. The results show that UK sporting events continue to attract record numbers of visitors. In 2015, more than 70 million people attended a live sporting event, up from the 67 million in 2014.

Overall attendances 2015

According to the firm, this 5% increase in attendees is partly due to the Rugby World Cup, which was held in the UK. This event saw the highest number of sports tickets ever sold in the UK at 2.5 million, of which an estimated 460,000 were overseas fans who travelled to the Rugby World Cup in 2015. While rugby significantly increased its number of attendees, from 4.9 million in 2014 to 7.5 million in 2015, football is still the #1 visited sports event in the UK with 43.4 million visitors, a number slightly up from the 42.8 million in 2014. Horseracing continues to be the UK’s second most popular sport, with 7.6 million visitors in 2014, and Rugby comes in at third place.

“The UK public have again demonstrated their great passion for attending live sport,” comments Dan Jones, Partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte. “England 2015 was the biggest Rugby World Cup ever, with the 2.5 million tickets sold breaking the attendance record. This helped drive a 5% growth in spectator numbers across all professional sports events in 2015 – to more than 70m – as sport continues to grip the nation.”

Football attendance

Of the 43.4 million people who attended a live football match in the UK, the biggest portion, 13.7 million or 31%, went to see Premier League matches, which, according to EY add a total £3.36 billion to the nation’s GDP. Just under a quarter (10 million) went to see Championship duels, 4.1 million saw their clubs compete in League 1 games and 2.7 million cheered for football teams in League 2.

Of the recurring annual events, the best attended individual sporting event in 2015 was Wimbledon, which attracted 484,000 fans in 13 days, followed by the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, 335,000 people in three days – which in terms of attendees per days is the clear frontrunner – and Royal Ascot, observed by 293,000 visitors in five days. This year’s top ten features two new individual events: MotoGP’s British Grand Prix (154,000) and the Badminton Horse Trials (147,000), kicking Ryder Cup and Aintree Grand National out of the top ten. In total, the top ten attended sporting events attracted 2.5 million people in 2015. 

10 attended sporting events in the UK in 2015

Commenting on the strong position of horseracing in the top ten, Alan Switzer, Director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, says: “British racecourses are on track for record attendances of 6.2m in 2015. Flagship events such as Royal Ascot, the Cheltenham Festival and the Epsom Derby are firmly established in the top tier of best attended annual UK sporting events, whilst the breadth and depth of other meetings throughout the year ensure horseracing remains one of the UK’s most popular spectator sports.”