How Popular Is Soccer In England? (Statistics & Facts)

The English Premier League is the most popular soccer league in the world. So it goes without saying that soccer is a popular sport in England, but just how popular is soccer in England?

Soccer is incredibly popular in England and the UK. According to the FA (Football Association), 13.5 million people in the UK play soccer regularly. Almost 60% of the population watches soccer on TV. This makes soccer by far the most popular sport in England and the UK.

So now you know that soccer is the most popular sport in England, but just how popular is it? Has it gained or declined in popularity? And how much more popular is it than other sports? Find out the answers to all these questions in this article!

How Popular is Soccer in The UK?

The FA (Football Association) claims that there are 13.5 million people who play soccer in England.

According to the FA, there are 6.25 million men who play soccer and 3.4 million women who play soccer. 3.35 million children are said to play soccer, of which 2.49 million are boys, and just under 1 million are girls.

This makes soccer by far the highest participated team sport in England.

In the UK, soccer is unmatched in popularity. Not only when compared to other sports but also compared to most forms of entertainment.

In 2014, Deloitte claimed 42.8 million people had watched a live soccer game that year in the UK. That works out as over 63% of the country's population have viewed a live game of soccer.

It's no surprise how many Brits have seen a game of soccer live, given that there are over 40,000 soccer clubs in the UK. 

There are also over 76 stadiums that can hold over 10,000 people across the country.

Watching soccer on TV isn't much different. In 2021, the Premier League claimed that nearly 60% of the population had watched the league in some form or another.

It's not just in recent years that soccer has been so popular. When looking at the most-viewed sporting events in UK history, soccer dominates.

Below are the top 7 most-watched sporting events in UK history:

SportEventYearViewers
1. SoccerEngland vs. Germany (World Cup Final)196632.3 million
2. SoccerEngland vs. Italy (European Championship Final)202130.95 million
3. SoccerChelsea vs. Leeds (FA Cup final replay)197028.49 million
4. SoccerEngland vs. Denmark (European Championship semi-final)202127.6 million
5. BoxingAli vs. Frazier197127.5 million
6. BoxingAli vs. Foreman197426 million
7. OlympicsLondon closing ceremony201224.46 million

Although it's England's national team, the FA Cup, and the Premier League that brings in the largest number of viewers in the UK, there are also big numbers seen in lower league soccer. 

For example, the 2022 EFL Championship play-off final between Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield achieved an impressive 2.24 million viewers.

This match also drew a crowd of 80,019 at London's Wembley Stadium. This just proves you don't have to be a Premier League team to do big numbers in England.

Why is Soccer so Popular in England?

Soccer is so popular in England due to how easy it is to play. Soccer was also invented in England, so the sport has a lot of history and pride.

Soccer is the most played sport in England, not only because of the high viewing figures on TV but also because it is so easy to play.

Children throughout England can easily get together with just a ball and nothing else and be able to play a full game of soccer.

It is reported that 44.7% of 11-15 year old and 31.4% of 5-10 year old children play soccer every month.

Suppose you were to walk through a park in England. In that case, you are almost guaranteed to come across a group of children kicking around a soccer ball, no matter the weather.

Even if there aren't goalposts to be used, kids will often use coats or backpacks to make their own goals. Sometimes they will simply use chalk to draw a goal on a brick wall.

Because of this simplicity and low cost, soccer became known as a working-class sport in England, increasing its overall popularity.

Another reason soccer is so popular is its long-standing history in England.

Associated football, as it was originally called, was invented in England during the 1800s. Not long after that, soccer clubs began to form all across the country.

Since then, soccer has been more of a lifestyle than a hobby for most of its fans in England.

Once a fan supports a soccer club, that support is usually passed on from generation to generation through the family.

This is why some soccer teams who have not performed well and have been relegated down the leagues still have huge followings.

On December 26th, 2018, Sunderland vs. Bradford City set a League 1 (third division) attendance record of 46,039 spectators. 

This is an incredible number of people for a game of soccer played two leagues below the Premier League. This shows how loyal English fans are, despite how poor their soccer team may be performing.

​​Is Soccer Becoming More Popular in England?

When it comes to participation in soccer, the popularity has definitely risen, particularly among women.

In 2015, the FA reported that there were 2.03 million women who played soccer in England. Now it is said that the number has risen to 3.4 million women participating in soccer.

The Guardian reports that participation has risen by 54% in women's and girls' soccer teams competing in England.

The FA's head of women's soccer development, Louise Gear, has suggested part of the reason for this increase may be down to the England women's soccer team. She said:

"England Women’s run to the World Cup semi-finals had been important in inspiring women of all ages and abilities to get outside and play”

Overall, the amount of people playing soccer in England has risen from 11 million in 2015 to 13.5 million in 2020. An increase of 2.5 million in 5 years.

Regarding TV viewership of soccer, the numbers have also been on the rise. In 2020 and 2021, the Premier League reported an increase in TV viewership in the UK.

This is likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with more people at home watching live soccer.

The Premier League claims that two of its top ten most-viewed games of all time were during this pandemic period.

In the 2020/21 season, Liverpool vs. Manchester United drew 4.46 million viewers, and Liverpool vs. Manchester City drew 3.38 million viewers.

The highest viewing numbers are still reserved for the England national team.

In 2021, England's Euro 2020 games against Denmark and Italy were the highest viewed soccer games in England since 1966, with 28.49 million and 30.95 viewers, respectively.

In case you're wondering, live Premier League games are counted as premium content in the UK, meaning they cost a lot more to watch than England games which are on free public TV.

Overall, it's safe to say that the popularity of soccer in England is definitely on the rise.

Is Soccer The Most Popular Sport in England?

Soccer is the most popular sport in England by some distance. In fact, it is nearly double the popularity of the second most popular sport.

With over 30 million people in England watching soccer on TV in 2021, and 13.5 million participating in it, there isn't another sport in England that comes close to touching soccer.

Other popular sports in England, such as Rugby and Cricket, aren't able to come anywhere near the numbers that soccer is able to achieve.

This has been the case in England for a long time.

In fact, the figures below show that soccer was twice as popular as every other sport in England nearly 20 years ago, and soccer has only grown in popularity since.

In 2003, a poll was taken to determine the most popular sport in the UK.

Soccer easily topped the list, with 46% of people have viewed a game, 10% participating, and 45% having a genuine interest in soccer.

This was practically double that of the second most popular sport, Rugby Union.

Below are the results of the 2003 poll:

SportTV viewingParticipationInterested
Soccer46%10%45%
Rugby Union21%N/A27%
Tennis18%3%23%
Athletics18%2%21%
Cricket18%2%19%
Snooker17%5%24%
Motor Racing16%N/A15%
Boxing11%N/A14%
Darts9%3%9%

So as you can see, soccer has been the most popular sport in England for a long time.

Today, it's even more popular. The 46% of people who were watching soccer nearly 20 years ago has risen to 60% in 2021 and 2022.

The current top 10 most popular sports in the UK have changed slightly since 2003. However, soccer remains the most popular by some distance.

Below are the top 10 most popular sports in the UK in 2022:

  1. Soccer
  2. Cricket
  3. Rugby
  4. Tennis
  5. Badminton
  6. Swimming
  7. Athletics
  8. Rowing
  9. Ice hockey
  10. Netball

It's probably safe to say that soccer will not be knocked off the top of this list anytime soon.

Conclusion

To summarize, soccer is extremely popular in England and the country's most popular sport.

The most-watched sporting events in UK history are dominated by soccer, and TV viewership is still rising.

Participation in soccer has also increased, especially among women, making soccer still the most widely practiced sport in the United Kingdom.

James Miller

Soccer has been my passion since I was a kid. After my own career, I became a coach, something I have been doing for 15 years now. Sharing my knowledge about soccer is what I love most. So I hope you can appreciate my articles.
Published: 
June 16, 2022
Published: June 16, 2022