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How Many People Play Football in the UK?

When it comes to organised sports in the UK, European football has no rival in terms of both participation and viewership. The fact is UK residents love their football. They like rugby, cricket, and even golf, but nothing comes close to the connection they have to football.

By the way, the popularity of football goes well beyond participation and viewership. It turns out that millions of online sports gamblers in the UK strongly prefer betting on football matches, and why not. They have unfettered access to some of the best soccer leagues and teams in the world. That includes the English Premier League, the Champions League, La Liga (Spain), Fußball-Bundesliga (Germany), and Serie A (Italy).

In the following section, we will further discuss the popularity of football while providing some statistical data that shows just how popular football really is in the UK.

Football Participation in the UK

When looking at football participation in the UK, everything needs to be viewed in levels. Remember, participation refers to people participating in organised football leagues at levels ranging from school-age children to professionals. Here are the participation numbers for the last six (6) years as stated by Statista:

  • 2016: 2,299,000 people
  • 2017: 2,299,700 people
  • 2018: 2,095,900 people
  • 2019: 2,056,900 people
  • 2020: 1,866,200 people
  • 2021: 1,451,700 people

As you can see, there was a material drop in participation that started in late 2019. Clearly, that was due to the COVID19 pandemic, which left participants locked in their homes with limited access to playing football. As the country moves back towards normal activities, the participation rate is certain to normalise.

Football Viewership in the UK

There is an old saying: “Those who cannot play, watch.” That’s absolutely true when it comes to football in the UK. In terms of TV viewership, there are a number of cable channels that carry major football league matches during the regular season. Likewise, there are a number of top cable channels that carry major football events such as The European Championships and the FIFA World Cup.

Currently, the population of the UK sits at around 68,000,000 million people. On any given night, 1.5 to 2.0 million UK residents will be turning in to watch a single Premier or Champions League match. With a full slate of games on the schedule, that translates to as many as 20 million UK residents watching professional football on any given day. When league championships roll around, viewership easily reaches the 30 million mark as football fans all over the UK gather to see the best that European football has to offer.

Football Gambling in the UK

Experts claim that more than 12 million UK residents have at least one online gambling account. After adding in another 2 to 3 million people who use betting shops, it’s fair to say that as many as 15 million UK residents have easy access to betting on European football matches. While the number of those who do so is not clear, suffice to say, millions of UK sports bettors are regularly betting on football matches being played all over the globe.

Note: With such high online gambling participation, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been very concerned about problem gambling issues for several years now. That’s what led them to develop the GamStop Self-exclusion scheme. Not only did they develop the program, but they also moved to mandate membership in the program by any and all licensed UK online gambling operators in the UK. Of course, that hasn’t deterred all UK online gambling operators with many still operating without UKGC licensing and GamStop membership. A list of these UK betting sites not on GamStop is provided on the Non GamStop Odds portal. It’s no small thing that a lot of these sites will market directly to UK gamblers who are in the GamStop database.

About GamStop for UK Problem Gamblers

For problem gamblers, GamStop offers a great way to get assistance with being denied access to online gambling accounts. All gamblers have to do is voluntarily register for self-exclusion with minimal personal information. They also get to determine the length of their self-exclusion period.

The Partnering of the Professional Football and Gambling Communities

As further proof that the popularity of football is legendary in the UK, there is now an undeniable connection between professional football and gambling in the UK. This is evidenced by the fact pro leagues and teams are now partnering with online operators from the UK gambling community. These partnerships are directed at the millions of UK football fans who also happen to like wagering on a match every now and then.

It’s the popularity of UK football that makes these partnerships viable. The teams and leagues get big money from gambling interests because the gambling community knows just how valuable the connection between gambling and the popularity of football has become.

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