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