This is part of our discussion about the world's most popular sports. When discussing this question, there is a difference between most viewed sports (e.g. most fans) versus the most played sports around the world. Here is a discussion about the number of people who watch and support sport around the world. See also the discussion about the most played sports. Have your say too, vote in our poll - What is your favorite sport to WATCH?
Most Fans, Most Viewed
On a widely circulated list of popular sports based on fans, soccer is rightly so in the top position. The FIFA World Cup held every four years has a huge TV audience - an accumulated audience of over 30 billion people watched the 2006 World Cup in Germany (I know that's more than the world's population, this figure is an 'accumulated' audience, meaning if people watched more than one game, which most people did, they were counted each time). When you talk of most viewed sports, the TV and now online audience greatly grows the number of viewers compared to those who physically go to watch sporting events. Cricket is second on this list despite not being played in many parts of the world, due to its huge popularity on the subcontinent (there are 1 billion Indians!). Field hockey is third, and is another popular sport spread around the world by the English though it did not take off in the US.
The internet is a great source of information about the sports which people interested in. A limitation of using the online audience is that they do not necessarily represent a world wide view. The information available tends to have a US bias, so popular US sports such as basketball, baseball and American football are highly represented. In a comparison of many lists, including some online votes and others which were personal opinion, the popular US sports basketball and baseball are in the top four.
One way of gauging popularity is by internet traffic to sports websites. Comparing the most popular Wikipedia sports pages, in addition to soccer/world football, the popular US sports basketball, American football and baseball were all in the top 5. In fact in 2009 the basketball wikipedia page was visited more often than the Soccer and Association Football pages combined (2010 was the FIFA World Cup and greatly boosted soccer page views). On the Olympic website, the aquatics pages are most popular, and on this website, Adventure Sports pages are most viewed.
The problem using internet traffic is that it often reflects only the English speaking parts of the world, and then only people who have internet access. Online voting can still not agree, one found soccer top while the other most favorite sport was cricket. It is important to consider all the population of the world and sports in all regions. Another analysis of popular sports in the media conducted by the IOC and said to represent a world-wide analysis is the study of newspaper articles during the Olympics. Although some popular world sports (such as cricket) are not on the Olympic program, the study found that during the 2004 Olympic Games Track & Field and Swimming were written about most, ahead of soccer. These same top sports also head the list of pages most viewed on the IOC website. Some sports, such as swimming, athletics and gymnastics, undergo a huge surge in popularity every four years during the Olympics, and are not so popular at other times.
The popularity of sports is not uniform around the world. Another study by the IOC looking at which sports are played most widely around the world, based on the number of National Federations for each sport, found Volleyball and Basketball ahead of the sport usually considered to be most widespread, Soccer, and the other 'universal sport' of running (Track and Field). There is further analysis of regional differences in sport popularity.
Popularity is also related to the personalities in the sport and access to TV and other media. Golfer Tiger Woods was the highest paid and probably the highest profile sportsman in the decade 2000-2010. This is reflected in another comparison of popular online sport term searches, where golf is only just behind the generic term football, which encompasses several sport codes. This reflects the high number of TV golf fans, personalities as well as recreational golf players.
- Discussion about the world's most popular sports
- What is your favorite sport to WATCH?
- Online lists of most popular sports
- Other world sport lists
Commenting is closed on this page, though you can read some previous comments below which may answer some of your questions.
- Lucas (2013)
cycling is far better than any of this rubbish.
- Jackofswords Lucas (2017)
Cycling. Or the Tour de Drug stores.
- Choke (2013)
Over 30 BILION people watched the 2006 world cup?
- JeroenM Choke (2013)
30 Billion??? Nice!!!! Since the world population is only about 7 billion, at least 23 billion aliens must have watched the 2006 WC as well. This must be the definitive proof that there really is intelligent extra-terrestrial live out there
- Rob Admin JeroenM (2013)
I think it is pretty clearly explained in the text above. It is an accumulated audience.
- Andy Rob (2013)
Actually the accumulated viewership of the 2006 fifa world cup was less than 30 billion. Only 2.2 billion was verified but SI put the number of viewers at 26 billion including replays, out of home viewers, audited numbers and additional guess work. No where near the 30 billion mark you posted. Any independant group places the 2006 viewership at less than 8 billion. Fifa has a long history of falsifying the data, as proven by independent research companies. They make wild claims including once that 10.2 billion chinese watched a single match. The live cumulative audience for fifa 2010 was around 8 billion which was considered an increase over the 2006.
- Paul Zink JeroenM (2013)
You didn't read carefully: the 30 billion figure is based on what's called reach and frequency, which is a combination of how many people (reach) watched and how often (frequency).
- Lionel andres Choke (2014)
i think they explained it clearly by using the phrase "accumulated audience" and even explained what it meant. So its obviously right.
- Amin Sal lionel andres (2017)
why wuld normal person care about the frequency and how often one watched. Normally people care about number of audience or viewer not any other stuff maybe this is for advertisers or some FIFA. Now if i am wathing a cricket game with 5 friends if this group complete the game in 10 intervals, then should this group count as 50. I think this would be a wrong information , it should be just 5.
- Guest (2014)
So many comments, so little content. Everybody just saying his favorite sport is the best. Do I have to explain that people are different and it is okay if someone loves a sport you don't?
- Dorian Diggler (2013)
Cricket has a big minus in comparison to basketball and football (soccer and american footbal) and this is lack of physical contact. I can see a permanent and worldwide growth of basketball in last few decades. I think that growth will be continued much more when people continue to recognise that basketball isn't sport for tall people (only). If you want to play basketball, much more important is skill and speed above all!
- Ayush Kumar Dorian Diggler (2014)
still 2 of worlds biggest nation india and china hich constitute of more than 50 % of worlds populatio if other countries of indian subcontinent is taken into account doesnot play ny 2 of the above sport . the fact is dat indian subcontinent has more population that entire soccer playing nation of world
- Cryer (2015)
The highest number for a single sporting event was probably one of Muhammed Ali's big fights in the 70s. The Rumble in the Jungle was watched by well over one billion. Fifas biggest was around 700 million for a finale so that doesn't compare.
- Alex (2014)
the worst is curling. OMFG!! its soo boring.
- Ayush Kumar (2014)
why do westerner have hard time in digesting that ny match between india and pakistan has more viewers dan even fifa world cup . these 2 nation has 22 % world`s population
- Cricket is one of d most interesting n growing sports in d world. It is already d most popular sports in asia. countries like india,pakistan,srilanka,bangladesh already so passionate for cricket n now china also showing great interest in dis game which shows more dan half of population in dis world are passionate for cricket...yeppp HURRAY| (from sachin, Mar 2013)
- "Cricket is a game played by 11 fools and watched by 11,000 fools," George Bernard Shaw. And the number of fools continues to grow (from loh, Feb 2013)
- I think the best sport is sitting on your couch watching the sport!! its the way to go XD :)p.s. its spelt fooseball! (from wayne kerby, Feb 2013)
- Well, we all know that football fans are envy of CRICKET's growing popularity and fan base. How could people watch the dumb sport of football in which players,or should I say kittens,run after their kitty kitty woolen ball just to put it in the net, which doesn't happen very often. it is a disgrace on the name of sport because in it players get into a brawl more often than not and don't respect their managers even or fellow players. PLAY CRICKET because it will transform you foolish football fans(maniacs) into civilised humans. when china joins cricket football will reach its nadir point. Yeah!Huh!I LOVE CRICKET. (from AB107, Jan 2013)
- Cricket. Is one of the less watched boring pointless game in the world, soccer and American football are the two best sports in the world without a doubt ... (from Mike, Oct 2012)
- Only 10 to 15 countries make cricket the 2nd most watchable sport.. Imagine u football lover what will happen if 50 countries start playing..? Hahaha i know u football lovers are afraid of crickets glory.. Football is the most boring game, Europeans watch this dumb sport for 2hrs like idiots to watch hardly 1 or 2goals.. But in t20 cricket we enjoys almost 3hrs by watching sky high sixes, bullet speed like boundaries, 150+ km/h bowling speed, amazing accurate decision of umpires, and fielding of players who catch the bowl like tiger catches his prey.. :) (from TRUE CRICKET LOVER, Oct 2012)
- I've been watching soccer for almost 30 years, but only couple years ago I found out that all this time I actually wasted. All that is because I discovered American Football and immediately fell in love with this game. For me it's number one now. The only sport that can compare is rugby, especially Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby tournament. Soccer has lost its glamor, I can't enjoy it anymore. As for cricket it's no doubt very interesting sport, related to baseball, but more ancient. Though I'm not a big fan I watch 20x20 cricket sometimes. Asians are very good cricket players, indeed. (from Leonid Prokopets, Aug 2012)