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Horse racing continues to be UK’s 2nd most popular sport after football

Top 10 events by attendance includes 4 horse racing festivals

The UK’s golden decade of sport continued to captivate the nation in 2014, with attendances of over 67m at professional sports events, according to analysis by the Deloitte Sports Business Group.

Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented: “2014 proved to be another hugely successful year for sport in the UK. Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games was a highlight, with 1.3m tickets sold for the 11 days of sporting competition, making it Scotland’s biggest-ever sporting event. Across all professional sports events, the total number of spectators exceeded 67m in 2014, which demonstrates the UK public’s huge appetite for watching live sport.”

Excluding Glasgow 2014, the top 10 best attended sporting events of the year had a combined attendance of 2.5m, with Wimbledon – attracting almost half a million spectators – once again comfortably out in front. As well as the Commonwealth Games, Scotland played host to another of the world’s great sporting spectacles in 2014, with golf’s Ryder Cup contested at Gleneagles. The 240,000 in attendance over the course of the event, including practice days, made it the 5th best attended sporting event of the year.

Jones added: “Sport has an innate ability to unite a nation, and this characteristic is evident in several of the best attended events of the year. Whether it be a continent coming together to support the European team in the Ryder Cup, or a nation getting behind Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy in their respective quests for glory, sport is a powerful tool which can do much to galvanise national pride.”

Five of the top 10 positions are occupied by horseracing and equestrian events.

Alan Switzer, director in the Sports Business Group, commented: “Horseracing continues to be the UK’s second most popular sport – after football – in terms of attendances. No other nation in the world can boast of having such a high quality and varied set of meetings.”

Some other findings from Deloitte’s analysis include:

  • Football was by far the most popular sport in terms of attendances (42.8m), reflecting the enduring appeal of the English and Scottish professional leagues;
  • The Premier League (13.9m) and the Championship (9.4m) had the first and fourth highest aggregate attendance of any domestic football league in Europe in 2013/14;
  • Rugby Union attendances reached 4.9m in 2013/14, and are expected to increase further in 2014/15 as the excitement builds in the run up to Rugby World Cup 2015 beginning next September, with a projected 2.3m tickets sold for that event;
  • Cricket’s overall attendance of 2.2m in 2014 was boosted by a record number of spectators (707,000) for the domestic T20 competition, in what was the first year of its revamped schedule;
  • The three days of action at Silverstone’s 50th British Grand Prix attracted 298,000 spectators, a race won by home favourite Lewis Hamilton en route to claiming his second Formula 1 World Championship;
  • 203,000 spectators flocked to Hoylake to witness Rory McIlroy win his first Open Championship;
  • The year’s overall number hit 67m, but fell short of the record 75m attendees at UK sports events in 2012, a year boosted by 11m visitors to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, stripping out London 2012 and Glasgow 2014, attendances at all other professional sports events grew by 3% in this period;
  • Although we have not included the three UK stages of the 2014 Tour de France in our analysis, due to attendance being largely free of charge, crowds totalling 4.8m lined the route around Yorkshire and between Cambridge and London across the three days. Large crowds in Northern Ireland also supported three stages of the Giro d’Italia;
  • As well as the Rugby World Cup, other major sporting events being hosted in the UK in 2015 include the Ashes, the European Rugby Champions and Challenge Cup finals, the World Gymnastics Championships, the European Eventing Championships and the EuroHockey Championships.

(Deloitte, Sports Business Group)

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