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Sport in the UK

Sports are highly valued in the UK, and there are several popular sports that attract a lot of attention. Major sporting events are often held at renowned stadiums like Wembley Stadium in London and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Local governments and private companies provide various sports facilities, including swimming pools, tennis courts, football pitches, ski slopes, and gyms. Many well-known sports, such as cricket, football, lawn tennis, golf, and rugby, originated in Britain.
The UK has hosted the Olympic Games three times: in 1908, 1948, and 2012. The 2012 Games were held in Stratford, East London, and the British team achieved great success across a wide range of sports, finishing third in the overall medal tally.
London also hosted the 2012 Paralympic Games, which originated from the pioneering work of Dr Sir Ludwig Guttman at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire. Dr Guttman developed innovative treatments for people with spinal injuries and promoted exercise and sports participation among his patients.

Notable British sportsmen and women

  • Sir Roger Bannister (1929-2018) was the first man in the world to run a mile in under four minutes, in 1954.
  • Sir Jackie Stewart (1939-) is a Scottish former racing driver who won the Formula 1 world championship three times.
  • Bobby Moore (1941-93) captained the English football team that won the World Cup in 1966.
  • Sir Ian Botham (1955-) captained the English cricket team and held a number of English Test cricket records, both for batting and for bowling.
  • Jayne Torvill (1957-) and Christopher Dean (1958-) won gold medals for ice dancing at the Olympic Games in 1984 and in four consecutive world championships.
  • Sir Steve Redgrave (1962-) won gold medals in rowing in five consecutive Olympic Games and is one of Britain’s greatest Olympians.
  • Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (1969-) is an athlete who uses a wheelchair and won 16 Paralympic medals, including 11 gold medals, in races over five Paralympic Games. She won the London Marathon six times and broke a total of 30 world records.
  • Dame Kelly Holmes (1970-) won two gold medals for running in the 2004 Olympic Games. She has held a number of British and European records.
  • Dame Ellen MacArthur (1976-) is a yachtswoman and in 2004 became the fastest person to sail around the world single-handed.
  • Sir Chris Hoy (1976-) is a Scottish cyclist who has won six gold and one silver Olympic medals. He has also won 11 world championship titles.
  • David Weir (1979-) is a Paralympian who uses a wheelchair and has won six gold medals over two Paralympic Games. He has also won the London Marathon six times.
  • Sir Bradley Wiggins (1980-) is a cyclist. In 2012, he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France. He has won eight Olympic Medals, including gold medals in the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
  • Sir Mo Farah (1983-) is a British distance runner, born in Somalia. He won gold medals in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics for the 5,000 and 10,000 metres and is the first Briton to win the Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 metres.
  • Dame Jessica Ennis-Hills (1986-) is an athlete. She won the 2012 Olympic gold medal in the heptathlon and silver medal in the 2016 Olympic Games, which includes seven different track and field events. She also holds a number of British athletics records.
  • Sir Andy Murray (1987-) is a Scottish tennis player who in 2012 won the men’s singles in the US Open. He is the first British man to win a singles title in a Grand Slam tournament since 1936. In the same year, he won Olympic gold and silver medals. In 2013 and 2016 he won the men’s singles at Wimbledon. He also went on to win Gold at the 2016 Olympics.
  • Ellie Simmonds (1994-) is a Paralympian who won gold medals for swimming at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games and holds a number of world records. She was the youngest member of the British team at the 2008 Games.


Cricket originated in England and is now played in many countries. The game can last up to five days and sometimes ends in a draw. It is known for its unique characteristics and complex rules, which are said to reflect the British values of fair play. You may encounter expressions such as 'rain stopped play', 'batting on a sticky wicket', 'playing a straight bat', 'bowled a googly', or 'it's just not cricket', which have become part of everyday language. One of the most famous cricket competitions is the Ashes, a series of Test matches between England and Australia.


Football is the most popular sport in the UK. It has a long history, with the first professional football clubs being formed in the late 19th century.
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each have their own football leagues, where clubs representing different towns and cities compete. The English Premier League is especially renowned and attracts a large international audience. Many of the world's best players compete in the Premier League. UK teams also participate in competitions like the UEFA Champions League, facing off against teams from other European countries. People take great pride in supporting their local teams, and there can be intense rivalries between different clubs and among fans.
Each country in the UK has its own national football team, which competes against other nations in tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Football Championships. England's national team famously won the World Cup in 1966 when the tournament was hosted in the UK.
Football is also widely played at the grassroots level, with amateur games taking place in parks and local communities throughout the UK on a regular basis.


Rugby originated in England in the early 19th century and remains popular in the UK today. There are two main forms of rugby: union and league, each with its own set of rules. Both forms have separate leagues and national teams in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (which includes the Irish Republic). Teams from these countries participate in various competitions.
One of the most prestigious rugby union competitions is the Six Nations Championship, which involves teams from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, and Italy. In rugby league, the Super League is a well-known club competition.

Horse Racing

Horse racing has a rich history in Britain, dating back to Roman times. The sport has strong ties to royalty and is celebrated across the country. There are numerous racecourses throughout the UK, hosting various prestigious events. Some of the notable horse racing events include Royal Ascot, a five-day race meeting attended by members of the Royal Family; the Grand National at Aintree near Liverpool; and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. The National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket, Suffolk, showcases the history and heritage of the sport.


Golf, a sport with roots dating back to 15th century Scotland, is widely enjoyed in the UK. It is played both socially and professionally, with numerous public and private golf courses available across the country. St Andrews in Scotland holds special significance as the "home of golf." The Open Championship, one of the prestigious "Major" tournaments, takes place in the UK and is hosted by a different golf course each year.


Modern tennis originated in England during the late 19th century. The first tennis club was established in Leamington Spa in 1872. One of the most renowned tennis tournaments held in Britain is The Wimbledon Championships, which occurs annually at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is the oldest tennis tournament globally and the only "Grand Slam" event played on grass courts.

Water Sports

Sailing remains a popular water sport in the UK, reflecting the country's maritime heritage. In 1966/67, a British sailor named Sir Francis Chichester became the first person to sail singlehandedly around the world, passing the Cape of Good Hope (Africa) and Cape Horn (South America). Two years later, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston accomplished the same feat without making any stops. Numerous sailing events are held across the UK, with the most renowned one taking place in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Rowing is also a popular water sport, enjoyed both as a recreational activity and as a competitive sport. One notable annual race is held on the River Thames between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Motor Sports

The UK has a rich history of motor sports, encompassing both car and motorcycle racing. Car racing in the UK began in 1902, and since then, the country has been a global leader in the development and manufacture of motor sport technology. Each year, a Formula 1 Grand Prix event takes place in the UK, attracting top drivers and teams from around the world. Several British drivers, including Damon Hill, Lewis Hamilton, and Jenson Button, have achieved success and won the Formula 1 World Championship.


Skiing has gained popularity in the UK, with many people traveling abroad for ski trips. Additionally, there are dry ski slopes located throughout the country, allowing for skiing practice and enjoyment. During the winter season, skiing on snow is also possible in certain areas. Scotland, in particular, offers five ski centers, and near Edinburgh, you can find Europe's longest dry ski slope.

Make Sure You Understand

  • Which sports are particularly popular in the UK: The sports that are particularly popular in the UK include football (soccer), cricket, rugby, tennis, horse racing, golf, motor sports, skiing, and water sports such as sailing and rowing.
  • Some of the major sporting events that take place each year: Some major sporting events that take place each year in the UK include the FA Cup (football), Wimbledon Championships (tennis), Six Nations Championship (rugby), Grand National (horse racing), The Open Championship (golf), and Formula 1 British Grand Prix (motor sports).