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Most popular sports worldwide (Ranked according to 10 factors)

One simply can’t understand the phenomena behind selecting the most popular sport in the world without understanding what sports mean for a person. How much is value in their eyes?

Sports play a very important role to keep a person healthy. From an early age where we consider sports as a fun activity, we play sports with our friends to enjoy our time.

As we move towards adulthood, we understand the importance of sports on fitness level. After realizing the worth, we add sports to our daily routine work.

On the basis of the most popular sports, Some take it seriously and become professional athletes to represent their country. Some just take it as a hobby or as a fitness ritual.

Even though everyone doesn’t become a professional player, the craze for their favourite game always remains the same.

People follow sports in many regions across the world. Sports are popular for their unique ability and different reasons in the world. Reasons like providing a dose of entertainment on match days. The joy of winning a tournament by their favourite team.

Now without any further delay let’s move on our today’s topic.

What are the most popular sport in the world?

The popularity of any sport depends on the viewership it generates overall. Although it’s quite difficult to estimate or give an idea of the exact participation number for every sport around the world.

One can simply give a general idea based on the available research data and criteria to select the popular sport.

Criteria used to rank most popular sport

The final result was conducted on the basis of 10 criteria. These criteria play a significant work in selecting the most popular sports in the world.

The following criteria are listed below:

  1. Global Fan Base and Audience
  2. Viewership on TV and Tv right deals
  3. Access to the General Public
  4. Relevancy of sport throughout the Year
  5. The number of Professional Leagues in the World
  6. Average Salary of Athletes in the Top Leagues
  7. Sponsorship Deals
  8. Number of Countries in Which the Sport is Popular
  9. Popularity on the Internet
  10. The prominence of the sport in sports headlines on print and electronic media

I listed the top 10 most popular sports in the world by using the research data generated by the criteria.

Top 10 Most popular sports

#10. Golf- 400 Million followers

Golf stands at No 10 in popularity among other sports. In Golf, players use many types of cues to hit balls into a series of holes in the fewest number of strokes. Golf was originated in Scotland in the 15th century. Golf is popular in most parts of western Europe, North America, and East Asia. The major leagues for Golf are 4 including the PGA Tour and European Tour.

#9. American Football – 430 Million followers

With substantial 430 million followers, American football rank at 9. American football is also knowns as Football in America and Gridiron in some other countries. Their style of play is different from Fifa football. The American football match is played by two teams. It consists of 11 players on a rectangular field 120 yards long and 53.3 yards wide with goalposts at each end. The ball used in American football is Oval not round. NFL is the only renowned league in the US. Their average player salary is $1.9 million.

#8. Rugby – 435 million followers

Rugby is the 8th most famous sport grabbing 435 million fans. It is played in many parts of France and has a strong tradition in the people of Basque, Occitan, and Catalan.

The game is very popular and widely played in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. It was introduced by English-speaking settlers in the 19th century.

Rugby has strong followings in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. The average salary of a rugby player is $60,000 per anum.

#7. Table Tennis – 870 million followers

With 870 million followers in the bag, Table tennis gets the rank 7 on the list. It is also called pin pong.

In this sport, two or maybe four players can play together. Players have to hit the very lightweight ball back and forth using rackets, specially designed to play table tennis.

No age restrictions | Theres no age restrictions to participate in the tournament. 78 year old if fit can play against 24 years old. Players with less physical strength (young and old) can compete equally with players in peak physical condition.

Not requirement of Court | Every sport need a field or court to play the game, meanwhile to play this game, all you need to have is a rectangular table with a center divider. There is no need for ground, or court to play table tennis, it can be played indoors as well as outdoors as well.

#6. Volleyball – 900 million followers

The following of 900 million makes Volleyball the 6 highest popular sport in the world. It is a team sport. In this sport, Two teams consisting of 6 players are separated through the net.

Each team has to score points by grounding the ball on the other team’s court. Volleyball is a part of the Olympic games. The average player salary is $2-3 thousand dollars.

Indoor game | Not like other sports that canbe played under open roof and sunny day, Volleyball is usually played in indoor facilities with climate control, making it a more predictable and consistent experience.

Never ends in a Tie | Sports often ended in a tie after the required time, if not knock out stages. However, This does not happen in volleyball. At least one point is scored every other minute. An average volleyball match lasts for an hour.

Guinness Book of world record | The AAU National Championships in Orlando, Florida is the largest volleyball event in the world, as designated by the Guinness Book of World Records. Convention centers hold hundreds of courts where volleyball games are constantly taking place in every direction.

The ball is rebounded | The ball never held once it is put into play, one must be able to control the ball with a type of hit.

#5. Tennis – 1 billion followers

it is ranked at No. 5 on the list with the number of 1 billion followers in total. it is an individual sport. players play 1on1 against other players. It goes with two different modes, singles and double. Each player uses a racket to strike the hollow rubber ball. Tennis gets around 400 million viewership from TV. four grand slams are played every year. Out of 4, Wimbledon is the most prestigious one. What separates Tennis from other sports are

Minimal Injuries | Compared to other sports, especially contact sports, tennis is very safe. Most injuries are related to overuse, but with the proper exercises, even those can be minimized or even eliminated.

Tournaments can be played all year around | From Grand Slams to ATP 1000,500, etc, a Tennis Calendar year is packed with Tournaments coming one after another. Summer is peak tennis season, but there is no off-season

Equal Prize Money Share | All Grand Slams prize money for Men’s and Women’s Singles titles are the same. Hence, Tennis became the only sport to offer equal prize money.

Heritage of Grand Slams | Grand slam titles hold significant value and consider royalty among sports. Out of All, Wimbledon is the oldest and most prestigious title.

#4. Hockey – 2.1 billion followers

There are two types of hockey played on different continents (Iced and filed). It has a fan base in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and America. Filed Hockey is the national sport of countries like India, Pakistan. Ice hockey is popular in Canada, the USA, and Europe. The average salary of the player is $3 million.

Hockey Is a Team Sport | Football has quarterbacks, baseball has pitchers, hockey has a team that win matches together when they are in sync.

Pace of the game | Even though Hokcey is also played for 90 min like football but its quarter half really add up the speed. Everything about this sport is fast-paced: the slap shots, the game pace, the players. Every other sport moves at a glacial pace in comparison to this one.

#3. Basketball – 2.2 billion followers

With approximate figures of 2-3 billion fans in the US, Canada, and other regions, it makes basketball the third most popular sport. Basketball is played on a rectangular court between two teams.

The objective is to shoot a ball through a hoop (18 inches in height). Basketball is played in 4 quarters. Tam with the most points wins the match.

TV Broadcasting deal | NBA sold the tv rights deal worth $24 billion for 9 years. Make $2.6 billion annually.

Highest Average Player Salary | The average salary of a player is more than $3 million which is highest average of salary then any other sport.

The Offseason or Transfer move | What separates the NBA from other sport is the offseason. This offseason and Free-Agency always has unexpected moves. All of the superstars that moved around via trade or Free-Agency made the league almost unrecognizable.

Fastly Growing Sports | Apart from its salary compression with Football, It is growing to be the fastly growing sports in the world. As newly developed Spanish NBA league. Slowloy and steadily the game is coming in all parts of the world.

#2. Cricket – 2.8 billion followers

Cricket is the 2nd most popular game in the world with a fan following of 2.5 to 3.5 billion. It is immensely popular in Asia, the UK, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Cricket is a game of bat and ball. it is played between two teams, consisting of 11 players each.

The match between India and Pakistan draws the most viewership. So far 12 ODI WorldCup had been taken place. Australia won the most (5). Cricket gets 2.2 billion viewership on TV. The average player’s salary is around $50000.

There are three formats in cricket. ODI, TEST, and T20. T20 is the latest format and Test is the oldest. The first test was played in 1663. 1st ODI in 1970 and 1st T20 in 2005.

Not a single day sport | Unlike other modern games like football, baseball, or tennis test cricket is a long-drawn-out game lasting 5 days and can even then end in a draw. Even its shortened version of limited overtakes double the time as compared to baseball.

Size and shape of the Field | Unlike other sports where the size of the playing field is specified. In cricket, only the size of the pitch is specified as 22 yards, but the size and shape of the ground are not specified. The playing field can vary from round to oval to rectangular.

No industrial manmade materials |  Unlike golf and tennis, cricket has refused to remake its tools with industrial manmade materials like plastic, fiberglass, and metal.

#1. Footbal – 4 Billion followers

4 billion followers in the count, make Football the most popular sport in the world. It is not only the most popular sport but it is also the richest sport in the world. FIFA is governing body of football. Based on the above mention criteria, Football justified its number one position as:

Football World Cup as the most-watched sports event | Almost 3.9 billion tuned in during a month-long 2018 FIFA World Cup. The final between France vs Croatia was watched by around 600 million people worldwide

Most professional leagues around the world | Football has its own league almost in every country. According to FIFA their top 5 major leagues in Europe includes Premier League, Laliga Santander, Bundesliga, Serie-A, and League 1.

Biggest broadcasting deals | English Premier league holds the most lucrative TV rights deal worth £6.5 billion with Sky, BT Sports, and Amazon. International Market add another $4 billion. Premier League has rights in over 180 territories across the world. The TV rights deal for FIFA WorldCup 2018 and 2022 is $1.85 billion.

Competition with the highest prize money | Out of the top 10 highest prize money sports competitions, football owns 6 of them. UEFA Award $2.1 billion in prize money every year in the champions league.

Popular Competitions | Champions league is the biggest trophy at the club level. On the international level, Fifa WorldCup is the most prestigious one. Total 21 editions of Worldcup had been played so far and brazil won 5 ( most number of times).

A number of Highest-Paid Athletes | Football boost 20 of the top 50 highest-paid players in the world. Messi and Ronaldo dominated sport rich list for the best part of the last 10 years.

Most valuable sports franchise/teams | 30 football clubs feature in the top 50 most valuable sports teams in the world. Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Barcelona topped the list for the last 20 years.

Most followed athletes & teams on social media | Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed person on Instagram. He has 412 million followers. Lionel Messi comes second with 311 million followers. Football Clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Barcelona have over 150 million followers making them to most followed teams of any sport.

Biggest shirt sponsorship deal | Real Madrid and Barcelona have kit deals with Adidas and Nike respectively worth over $100 million a year. Meanwhile, they can also add another $50 to $60 million a year from shirt sponsors like fly-Emirates, Rakuten.

RankSportEstimated FansRegional Popularity
10Golf400 millionEurope, Asia, America, Canada
9American Football430 millionUSA
8Rugby435 millionFrance, England, New Zealand, South Africa
7Table Tennis870 millionAsia, Europe, Africa, and Americas
6Volleyball900 millionAsia, Europe, Americas, and Australia
5Tennis1 BillionEurope, Americas, and Asia
4Field Hockey2.1 BillionEurope, Africa, Asia, Australia
3Basketball2.2 BillionUS, Canada, China, and the Philippines
2Cricket2.8 BillionAsia, Australia, UK
1Football4 BillionEurope, Africa, Asia, America

FAQs Regarding Most popular sports

Q. What is the most popular sport in the world?

A. Football, with 4 billion fans from all over the world.

Q. Most popular Indoor game?

A. Table Tennis/Ping pong.

Q. Which sports pay more?

A. NBA. average players salary of NBA players is $3 million.

Written By

High on sports since forever, aspiring sports journalist and a FC Barcelona fan. Enjoys writing articles on any sport. Can also be considered a F1 bandwagoner.

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