UK sport attendance set to hit record 76.2 million in 2022

Featured image credit: Tim Bechervaise on Unsplash

The total attendance for professional UK sport is predicted to hit a record 76.2 million by the end of 2022, according to a report by sports marketing agency Two Circles.

The figure would surpass the previous record of 75.1 million, which was posted in 2019, the last calendar year unaffected by COVID-19. Attendances reached just 15.7 million in 2020 and 37 million in 2021 as a result of restrictions caused by the pandemic.

According to the report, women’s sports events this year will post a total attendance of 2.4 million, more than double the 2019 figure of 900,000. The figures have been boosted by the UEFA Women’s Euro, which culminated in England beating Germany in the final at Wembley Stadium in front of a crowd of 87,192.

The Women’s Super League has already surpassed its entire total attendance for the 2021-22 season (250,000), less than a third of the way through the 2022-23 campaign.

As well as the Women’s Euro, other major events such as the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Rugby League World Cup contributed to the record overall attendance figure.

Two Circles said that major one-off events will contribute 2.6 million in cumulative attendances this year, which will represent the highest figure for major one-off events since 2012, when London hosted the Olympic Games.

The report also said that sport will contribute £1.7bn (€1.9bn/$2.1bn) to the UK economy in 2022. Football will contribute to two thirds (66.4%) of UK sports attendances in 2022, with the Premier League accounting for one in five of all attendances.

The Premier League is on course to hit its highest attendance on record, with the average attendance for the 146 games played before the FIFA World Cup break standing at 39,910. This would exceed the average attendance of 39,572 posted in 2021-22, which ended with the highest total Premier League attendance to date (15.04m).

Rugby union will be the second most attended sport in 2022 with a total crowd of 5.4 million, a figure boosted by one-off games such as The Showdown at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Big Summer Kick-Off at Twickenham. Rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games also drew more than 100,000 spectators at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

After rugby union, horse racing and cricket were the third and fourth most attended sports with cumulative figures of 4.9 million and 2.9 million, respectively. Cricket attendances were boosted by the sale of 160,000 tickets for the women’s T20 competition at the Commonwealth Games, which marked a world record for a women’s cricket event.

The top 10 was completed by rugby league (2.3 million), motorsport (two million), equestrian (1.6 million), ice hockey (1.1 million) greyhound racing (900,000) and tennis (800,000). Other sports attracted 3.7 million fans.

George Foster, UK managing director at Two Circles, said: “It’s been two years since we’ve had a full calendar year unimpacted by COVID, and our 2022 UK attendance analysis underlines the central importance of sport to UK society.

“The UK public loves live sport and the community and shared experiences it provides. Across the last decade, sports rights-holders have recognised this by investing in stadiums, event-day experiences and new on-pitch products to open up the experience to more people. As a result, in 2022 we saw more women, children and ethnic minorities experience live sport than any other year in history.

“And 11 years after hosting what is seen by many as the most successful Olympic and Paralympic Games of all time, the UK continues to underline its position as the world capital of sports spectating, a dependable destination for international federations looking to deliver both amazing atmospheres and commercially successful competitions.”