Wimbledon was the most attended UK sport event in 2016

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

The Wimbledon tennis championships was again the best-attended sporting event in the UK in 2016.

Thanks to a Middle Sunday being played this year as a result of poor weather, the tennis championship's attendance of 494,000 was up on the previous year.

Overall, total gates at professional sports events in the UK were 69.8 million, down 1% on 2015, according to Deloitte's sports business group.

Meanwhile, football matches made up two thirds of the total attendance figures.

'Successful year'

This year's total is slightly less than last year's 70.5 million, but in 2015 the Rugby World Cup was hosted in the UK.

"Attendances of almost 70 million means 2016 has been another hugely successful year for sport in the UK," said Deloitte's Dan Jones.

The top 10 attended showpiece events were all multi-day affairs, such as Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix.

With 14 days of play, the Grand Slam event, won by Andy Murray, was again comfortably the best-attended sporting event in the UK this year.

And looking at individual sports, as opposed to individual events, football was the biggest winner in the attendance stakes, at 45.2 million.

'Enduring appetite'

Overall, 2016 was the third-strongest year this century in terms of live sport attendances, behind the Olympic and Paralympic year of 2012 (75 million), and 2015.

"The fact that the total is so high, despite the absence of hosting any major one-off global events, is a reflection of the UK public's enduring appetite for watching live sport," said Mr Jones, a partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Attendances at the Cheltenham Festival were boosted by redevelopment at the course

Football was followed by horse-racing meetings - such as Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival - and equestrian events (7.4 million), which accounted for five of the top 10 best-attended individual events of the year.

Alan Switzer, director in the Sports Business Group, said: "Events such as the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and Epsom Derby are some of the highlights in the UK's sporting calendar, and this is reflected by their continued presence in the top 10.

"The enhanced exposure likely to be brought about by horse-racing's move to ITV next year should build further interest in the sport and help cement its place as the UK's second most popular sport in terms of attendances."

Top Ten Attended UK Sports Events 2016

  • Wimbledon tennis championships - 494,000 people (14 days)
  • F1 British Grand Prix - 327,000 (3 days)
  • Royal Ascot horseracing - 295,000 (5 days)
  • Cheltenham Festival horseracing - 261,000 (4 days)
  • ATP world tennis finals - 252,000 (8 days)
  • The Open golf championship - 173,000 (8 days)
  • Badminton Horse Trials - 160,000 (5 days)
  • Moto GP Silverstone - 156,000 (3 days)
  • Burghley Horse Trials - 155,000 (4 days)
  • Epsom Derby horseracing - 154,000 (2 days)

Source: Event organisers, Deloitte analysis

In other sports, rugby union's attendances (stripping out the one-off effect of the 2015 World Cup) remained constant at five million.

Meanwhile, including the successful hosting of the Four Nations competition across six different venues, Rugby League's attendances reached 2.3 million in 2016, with Super League attendances up slightly compared with 2015.

The sports events making up the top 10 best-attended were actually the same as in 2015, although the order differed slightly. The Cheltenham Festival was boosted by the opening of a £45m redevelopment and overtook the ATP World Tour Finals to claim fourth place.

Major sporting events in the UK next year include the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff, the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup in multiple venues, and the IAAF World Championship athletics in London.

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