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Football has overtaken rugby as Wales’ most popular sport, poll suggests

26 May 2022 3 minute read
Gareth Bale. Photo Simon Galloway PA Images

Rugby has long been hailed as Wales’ national sport but a new poll suggests that football may now actually be more popular, after all.

A running poll by Nielsen for UEFA has asked respondents asked a representative sample in Wales in 2016, 2019 and this year which is their favourite sport.

In 2019 rugby and football were dead even at 43% each, with rugby having a narrow 42% to 39% lead in 2019. But the poll for this year shows football opening up a 47% to 45% lead over rugby for the most popular sport.

The polling company noted that there had been a “significant increase” in interest in football in Wales since 2019.

The poll had worse news for rugby which is that the increase in interest in football was concentrated among those aged 35 or younger.

Better for rugby however was the difference in positivity about the sport in Wales. 85% felt positive about football compared to 95% about rugby. Meanwhile, 10% felt negative about football compared with only 4% about rugby.

Negativity about rugby had increased slightly, however, from 2%, while negativity about football had almost halved from 18%, compared with 2019.

Noel Mooney, FAW Chief Executive, said: “On the whole, this report is very positive and I’m incredibly pleased to see that the game which we are entrusted to run is now the number one interest sport in the country.

“This independent report is a testament to the hard work of FAW employees, Area Associations, Leagues, Clubs and volunteers right across the country who raise awareness, interest and perceptions of our wonderful game.

“In conjunction with our strategic aims for Welsh football, this research provides us with insights on where we can continue to grow and what areas we need to focus on for improvement.”

‘Role models’

The figures for the popularity of football and rugby may be a reflection of their differing fortunes on and off the pitch. Wales national and regional rugby teams are currently in the doldrums while Wales’ national football team is a game away from World Cup qualification.

The report also has advice for the Football Association of Wales so that they can further increase football’s popularity in Wales.

“In order to further increase football popularity among women, continue to push relevant initiatives (e.g. Be. Football mentoring programme),” the report says.

“Highlight recent investments in facilities and infrastructure, [as] this should reinforce positive sentiment towards football in Wales.

“Capitalise on the increases in national team interest Continue with player-focused comms strategy (documentaries/storytelling) with the aim of creating role models.

“Build on the goodwill towards the FAW by communicating the FAW’s role in the football ecosystem” and “Emphasise FAW’s commitment to children’s both physical and mental health” are also among the recommendations.”

Boxing was the favourite sport of 22% in Wales, while 20% favoured tennis and 18% motorsport.

1,000 respondents were interviewed by Nielsen between 4th April and 22nd April 2022.


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George
George
6 months ago

Pep Guardiola within last few years recognised how good basic rugby skills (receiving the ball under pressure, creating 2-on-1’s, passing/attacking at the right time to take advantage) are to support football performance.

More and more frequently we’re going to see kids who trained in multiple disciplines rise to the top because of the transferrable skills – just as long as each discipline is run in a professional manner with focus on being the best they can be.

Each sport teaches values, helps lead into healthier lifestyle and ultimately makes a healthier nation less reliant on health services.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago

There’s always peaks & troughs in Welsh sport. And sure, rugby’s in the doldrums at the moment with football benefitting, especially seeing Wales has the opportunity of qualifying for the World Cup since 1958 and there’s so much media speculation with Gareth Bale’s fractured relationship with Real Madrid, his pending future, especially Wrexham’s Hollywood owners raising the profile of Welsh football. But I’m torn being foremost a rugby supporter myself, who also champions Welsh sport. And we forget sometimes how successful Wales has been in rugby where with with football won nothing sadly. Although saying that, this can change. Welsh… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Y Cymro
CommonSense
CommonSense
6 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

How many nations take rugby seriously compared to football? Rugby is a minor sport on the world stage.

Rob
Rob
6 months ago
Reply to  CommonSense

I think a lot of nations do take rugby seriously. The problem is the sport is a closed shop run by a bunch of amateurs with their own self-interests.

Glen
Glen
6 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

You cannot compare success in rugby to football, only in a handful of countries is rugby anything more than a minority sport.

Jack
Jack
6 months ago

I hate how this debate is always phrased as an either/or question.

I sometimes feel like I’m in the minority for liking both football AND rugby?

Trying to make football vs rugby happen is very tiresome.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack

Hear hear 👏

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack

Well said! We should celebrate all Welsh sport. But we think ourselves lucky also. Thankfully we have our own national rugby & football sides, as if we followed treacherous Glamorgan cricket’s ideology the likes of sporting icons Gareth Edwards & Gareth Bale would have never represented Wales in rugby or football.

Last edited 6 months ago by Y Cymro
Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
6 months ago

Utter nonsense ‘poll’. We should get behind any team in any sport that represents Wales in the international sporting arena.

Last edited 6 months ago by Leigh Richards
Marc
Marc
6 months ago

Regional rugby may benefit the National team but has been disastrous for local rugby, Bridgend , Maesteg, Ebbw Vale, Pontypool and Pontypridd to name but a few are just a shadow of the clubs they once were

Eifion
Eifion
6 months ago

Lol, English soccer had always been the most followed sport in Wales, hope they didn’t pay to much for this analysis.

Rob
Rob
6 months ago

I support Wales in both football and rugby, and also think we should also have our own Cricket team.  The problem with rugby is that the sport is a closed shop both internationally and here in Wales. Aside from RGC, Welsh rugby is more or less non-existent up North. The Welsh Premiership I believe excludes North Wales clubs from taking part. London Welsh was even proposed to be a fifth region before North Wales. Internationally it is very hard for newer nations to succeed. The Six Nations are reluctant to bring in promotion and relegation giving the likes of Georgia… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Rob
David Harking
David Harking
6 months ago

They are both great sports and are so uniquely different. The comparison is inevitable because of the entertainment value as spectators.

Kenneth Vivian
Kenneth Vivian
6 months ago

Always has been by far the most widely played in wales

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