In the article, we will name the most popular sports on a global scale, based primarily on the number of fans. The rating of popular sports turned out to be unusual: in second place is the sport, for fans of which to watch the entire match is already an achievement, and boxing and MMA are not at all included in the top ten most popular disciplines.
In the modern world, sport has ceased to be just a sport: any public action becomes part of the media space, which is gradually replacing show business in its usual perception. Major TV channels and streaming services fight for the rights to broadcast sports events, the richest companies (including betting companies) sponsor sports clubs, and the athletes themselves often earn more from advertising contracts than on the field.
What types of sports are popular depends most of all on geographical factors: it is quite obvious that the popularity of hockey in the USA or Canada is noticeably higher than the love of football, while in Latin America the situation is reversed. Sometimes the scale of a particular individual interferes in the matter – if it were not for Fedor Emelianenko, many Russians would never fall in love with mixed martial arts.
Sports rating: top 10 most popular
We present the rating of sports by popularity around the world. The number of spectators of sports competitions was taken into account
|Kind of sport
|Number of viewers
|American football and rugby
1. Football. 3.5 billion viewers
Few other sports are as controversial as the most popular sports game in the world. Some consider football an integral part of life, spend sleepless nights in front of the screen watching the matches of their favorite team, or go to the other side of the world to support their idols. And others point blank do not understand: what is interesting in watching 22 millionaires kick the ball?
One thing is for sure: football is the most watched sport in the world in terms of television coverage , and by the number of people involved in it at an amateur or professional level.
In favor of the fact that football is the most popular sports game in the world, money also speaks. The top three highest paid athletes in the world, according to Forbes, includes two footballers at once: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But in the top ten most expensive clubs in the world, football does not have such an impressive representation – only three teams, these are Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.
The main factor in the popularity of football is its accessibility. Enough ball and comrades in the game – and you can play, the rest is a matter of imagination and desire.
2. Cricket. 2.5 billion viewers
Cricket is exotic for the post-Soviet space, but it is the most popular sport in Asian countries that were once British colonies. Cricket has the most fans in India, a country of 1.36 billion people.The main distinguishing feature of the discipline is the completely unrealistic duration of the matches. Test games can last five days for six hours!
Cricket resembles baseball, which is better known to the general public: a bat and a ball are also used to play. Each team has 11 players who are divided into servers (bowlers) and reflectors (batsmen). The goal of the batsmen is to deflect the throw so that the ball reaches the boundaries of the field or flies far enough from the opponents that it would allow it to run to the other end of the pitch.
3. Basketball. 2.2 billion viewers
Basketball was invented in the 19th century by a college teacher in the United States, and in our time has become one of the most popular sports thanks to its crazy dynamics and spectacle. The geography of sports distribution covers almost the whole world: the USA, Argentina, Greece, Spain, Russia and even China.
The main league of basketball is the American NBA, which attracts the most fans around the world. Three NBA clubs are among the five most valuable teams in the world at once: the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.
Basketball, although it does not lead the ranking of the most popular sports, but the interest in it is growing every year. It is unlikely that he will be able to catch up with football in popularity, but basketball is clearly capable of competing with cricket for second place.
Basketball closes the top five most popular sports in Russia among professional and amateur athletes – more than 1.5 million people play it.
4. Hockey. 2 billion viewers
Hockey is one of the most popular sports in the countries of the Northern Hemisphere: in Russia, for example, according to a survey by the Ministry of Sports, more than half of the population is interested in and follows the battles on ice. Sports are attractive for their dynamism and aggression: aesthetic lovers enjoy abandoned pucks and elegant passes, while fans who prefer toughness and extreme sports follow hard power moves or fights on ice.
So what about the Southern Hemisphere? There, sports fans came up with the idea of playing field hockey with a ball, and competitions in this type of sport have been held since 1970: even the teams of Australia, India and Pakistan, exotic for classic hockey, managed to be world champions!
The richest and most popular league in hockey (yes, including classic hockey, bandy, and field hockey) is the NHL: there are the best hockey players in the world, huge salaries, gigantic sums for broadcasting rights.
5. Tennis. 1 billion viewers
The first individual sport on our list. Tennis attracts spectators from all over the world, with the exception of African countries, where this sport is not well developed for one reason: it is considered one of the most expensive in the world, because African athletes rarely have the opportunity to achieve heights in tennis.
Tennis is a big money sport. It’s not for nothing that the Swiss Roger Federer got into the top ten of the highest paid athletes: and it’s not only about prize money at tournaments, but also about the tennis player’s personal brand, which brings him considerable income.
Another plus in favor of the popularity of tennis: it practically eliminates the difference between men’s and women’s competitions. When it comes to team sports, men’s competitions are much more interesting, and in tennis, men’s and women’s tournaments have approximately the same audience.
6. Volleyball. 900 million viewers
Volleyball is the most common sport in the world, as evidenced by one simple fact: there are 222 volleyball sports federations in the world. For comparison, in football, which is undoubtedly considered the number one sport, the main international organization FIFA includes 211 federations.
Despite its prevalence, there is not as much finance in volleyball as in football or hockey: only broadcasts of the Olympic Games and World Championships have a high rating. Volleyball clearly lacks more media exposure to break into the top five.
7. Table tennis. 850 million viewers
Table tennis is spread all over the world, but it has gained particular popularity in Europe and the countries of Southeast and East Asia, which explains such a large number of regular spectators.
With a relatively small number of professional athletes, table tennis has a wide amateur reach: who didn’t have a person in school who was fond of this not quite typical sport?!
Only broadcasts from the Olympic Games are hugely popular, and the World Championships and other leagues do not attract such a large number of viewers outside of Southeast Asia.
8. Baseball. 500 million viewers
Residents of the CIS countries may get the impression that baseball is a purely American sport. They also heard something about Japan, but actually no one is interested in it anymore. This is a huge delusion: there are 120 baseball federations in the world, and the sport is wildly popular in Cuba, Venezuela, China, South Korea, Mexico and even in the Czech Republic with the Netherlands.
The main league in the world, of course, is the American MLB, in which most of the finances and spectator interest are concentrated. The New York Yankees baseball club is the second most valuable in the world.
9. American football and rugby. 410 million viewers
The testosterone-based, brutal and sometimes bloody sport of rugby is widespread throughout the world, but is especially popular in France, New Zealand and South Africa.
Interestingly, before 1995, the sport was not truly professional: due to wage restrictions, most clubs preferred to remain amateur. Broadcasts of rugby leagues are practically not sold abroad, they are watched almost exclusively within the country. This affects, among other things, the wages of players: the salary of rugby players in the world’s best leagues is about 60 thousand dollars.
The situation with American football is completely different – the NFL sells broadcasts around the world, and in the USA the tournament is considered the most popular. With funding, everything is also very decent: the player Dak Prescott is one of the five highest paid athletes in the world.
But with the spread of American football, everything is not so great: at a more or less professional level, the sport lives in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany, France, Austria and Sweden.
10. Golf. 390 million viewers
Golf is widely spread only in the USA, Canada and Europe. It differs from other sports in that age is nothing to golf. If in football, tennis and hockey players can get a sports pension, then in golf everything depends only on the desire of the athlete himself.
The legendary Tiger Woods, thanks to whom golf became famous all over the world, has long been one of the ten highest paid athletes in the world.