Press releases

Almost 70m tickets sold for UK sports events in 2016

14 December 2016

  • Attendances at professional sports events in the UK totalled almost 70m in 2016;
  • Down just 1% on 2015, despite not having the benefit of hosting any major one-off global events;
  • Football attendances account for almost two-thirds of the total.

Attendances at professional sports events in the UK totalled 69.8m in 2016, according to analysis by the Deloitte Sports Business Group. Whilst slightly down from last year’s figure of 70.5m, which was boosted by England hosting the Rugby World Cup, 2016 is nevertheless the third strongest year this century in terms of live sport attendances, behind 2012 (75m) and 2015.

Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented: “Live professional sports attendances of almost 70m means that 2016 has been another hugely successful year for sport in the UK. 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.”

The total of 69.8m is equivalent to paying to attend more than one sports event per head of population, although many sports benefit from a strong core of loyal supporters who attend multiple events over a season. Football again dominates the overall picture, with attendances of 45.2m accounting for almost two-thirds of the total. This is followed by horseracing meetings and equestrian events (7.4m), which were five of the top ten best attended individual events of the year.

Alan Switzer, director in the Sports Business Group, commented: “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 ten. The enhanced exposure likely to be brought about by horseracing’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.”

The biggest sporting events of 2016 took place overseas – the Rio Olympics and UEFA EURO 2016 in France. As well as UK citizens travelling in their thousands to attend and support, these events attracted vast television ratings, with the BBC achieving a record audience for an overseas Olympics as over 45m of the UK population tuned in to Rio 2016. England’s loss to Iceland at EURO 2016 drew an average of over 15m viewers.

Jones added: “Despite being nearly 6,000 miles away, the feel-good factor brought about by Team GB’s historic performance at Rio 2016 – their most successful overseas Olympic Games ever – has once again demonstrated the power of sport. Such events drive interest in live sport, and the industry is in great health as consumers continue to choose to spend their leisure time and money on attending sports events.”

Looking ahead to 2017, the UK welcomes a number of international sporting events including the UEFA Champions League Final (Cardiff), the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup (multi-venue) and the IAAF World Championships in Athletics (London).

Further findings from Deloitte’s analysis include:

  • Of the overall football attendances of 45.2m, the Premier League (13.9m) and the Championship (9.9m) account for over half;
  • The popularity of the FA Women’s Super League continues to grow as attendances increased across both divisions in 2016, with five FA WSL 1 clubs achieving double-digit percentage growth;
  • Excluding the one-off effect of the World Cup, Rugby Union’s attendances remained constant at 5m compared with 2015;
  • Including the successful hosting of the Four Nations across six different venues, Rugby League’s attendances reached 2.3m in 2016, with Super League up slightly compared with 2015;
  • Cricket’s overall attendance was 2.3m in 2016, with 1.6m across the three domestic cricket competitions and 0.7m for the international matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan;
  • Thanks to a rare Middle Sunday as a result of poor weather, Wimbledon’s attendance (494k) was up slightly compared with 2015, again making it comfortably the best attended sporting event in the UK this year. The momentum built by Andy Murray in claiming his second Wimbledon title continued through the rest of the year, resulting in him becoming the first British singles player to reach World No. 1 since computerised rankings began in 1973;
  • The notorious British summer also affected the Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, with the opening laps run behind the safety car after heavy rain. Still, over 300k fans turned out over the course of the weekend to cheer on Lewis Hamilton to his third successive Silverstone victory;
  • The 145th Open at Royal Troon attracted 173k spectators, who witnessed a remarkable duel between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, with the Swede eventually coming out on top to claim his first major championship;
  • The events comprising the top 10 were the same as in 2015, although the order of some differed slightly, most notably the Cheltenham Festival (boosted by the opening of a £45m redevelopment) overtaking the ATP World Tour Finals to claim fourth place and Badminton Horse Trials rising three places to seventh; and
  • Major one-off global events can provide a significant boost to a year’s overall attendance figure. In 2012, the London Olympic and Paralympic Games accounted for 11m of the overall 75m who attended live sport that year. In 2014, Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games represented 1.3m of the annual total of 67.5m, and the Rugby World Cup contributed 2.5m of last year’s 70.5m.


Notes to editors

About the Sports Business Group at Deloitte
Over the last 20 years Deloitte has developed a unique focus on the business of sport. Our specialist Sports Business Group offers a multi-disciplined expert service with dedicated people and skills capable of adding significant value to the business of sport. Whether it is benchmarking or strategic business reviews, operational turnarounds, revenue enhancement strategies or stadium/venue development plans, business planning, market and demand analysis, acquisitions, due diligence, expert witness, audits or tax planning; we have worked with more clubs, leagues, governing bodies, stadia developers, event organisers, commercial partners, financiers and investors than any other adviser.

For further information on our services you can access our website at

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Overall sporting attendances in 2016 (m)

Overall sporting attendances in 2016 graph
Note: Where applicable, figures are based on the 2015/16 or 2016 season. Source: Event organisers; Deloitte analysis.

Top 10 attended annual sporting events in the UK in 2016 (000s)

Notes: The above excludes free sporting events. Events such as the London Marathon would be comfortably at the top of a list which included those events for which admission was free.
1. Includes Middle Sunday attendance of 25k.
2. 23k spectators also attended “Fans’ Thursday” at Silverstone.
3. The Open attendance includes 38k spectators at the four practice days.
4. The Epsom Derby attendance includes an estimated 100k attendees on the Hill who pay limited admission fees.

Source: Event organisers; Deloitte analysis.

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