What are the favorite sports of Europeans?
According to a Eurobarometer survey, more than 40% of Europeans engage in sport on a more or less regular basis. Although some sports are essential in all countries, both in practice and in popularity, there are still some peculiarities among Europeans. On the occasion of the European Sports Week (EWOS), which takes place from 23 September to 1 October, the whole of Europe is offering you the chance to come back to European preferences in sport.
Europe, crazy soccer
As in many parts of the world, football is the King sport in Europe. Its present form and rules even originated on the continent in the United Kingdom in the 1860s. Sport then spreads to continental Europe, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark, mainly through universities. Since the 1930s, with the organization of the first World Cups, football has become an international and trendy sport.
Today, the sport continues to gain in importance, both economically and socially. Helped by the liberalization of transfers or the exponential increase in television rights, football now has a considerable financial impact. So much so that some world-famous clubs such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or Manchester United are valued at more than 3 billion euros.
But the continued success of football is also because it is not the preserve of an elite or a mere audiovisual spectacle. Indeed, it is by far the most popular sport in Europe. For example, 1.2 million Dutch people and 4.3 million Italians are registered in a club to play football, representing 7% of the total population of these two countries. With few exceptions, football is the most famous sport in the 28 member states of the European Union.
At a professional level, logically, the most populous European nations are the ones with the most excellent chance of winning trophies. Only Germany, Spain, France, Italy and England managed to win a World Cup. This does not prevent other teams from regularly achieving excellent results, such as Portugal, reigning European champion, The Netherlands, three-time World Cup finalists, Belgium, Croatia and Greece, European winner in 2004.
In this respect, the next edition of the Euro will take place in 2020 and will be organized for the first time across the continent in 13 different cities.
Are Europeans athletes? While more than 40% of Europeans participate in sport on a more or less regular basis, the 2014 Eurobarometer survey also revealed that 42% of Europeans never participate in sport, an increase of 3% since the previous study in 2009. This is why, at both national and European level, policies are being pursued to promote the sport. The European sports Week, which takes place every year from 23 September, is part of this process.
Europeans, fans of collective sports
In addition to football, other team sports are prevalent in Europe, most of them gaining recognition and financial weight.
This is the case of rugby, a sport derived from football, played by a growing number of Europeans. Indeed, while the British nations, France and Italy are the most famous, as participants of the VI Nations Tournament, other countries see their performances improve over the years. These include Romania and, to a lesser extent, Germany, Spain, and Portugal.
Handball is also becoming a major sport in many European countries. Thanks to excellent results worldwide, it is one of the most critical sports disciplines in France, Spain, and Germany. Some “smaller” countries have also made themselves a specialty of the sport, such as Croatia, Denmark, and Sweden, to the point of competing with popular football.
In basketball, while the United States remains far ahead, some European countries are now reaching very high levels. This is once again the case for Spain and France, one of the most diverse countries in Europe in terms of sport. But also countries less often in the spotlight, such as Greece, Lithuania, and Slovenia.
Although water polo is much less well-publicized, it is prevalent and practiced in several European countries, including Hungary, where it is even a national sport. Many Italians, Maltese, Croats, Greeks, and even British also practice this sport.