Rugby is one of the biggest sports in the UK, generating revenue in both the amateur and the professional game. So how much money is there in rugby at the moment across the UK?
How much money does rugby generate in the UK? It is estimated that rugby in the UK generates around £400 million per year. It is an incredibly difficult figure to try to estimate.
The exact amount of money that rugby generates in the UK is very difficult to estimate. That is because rugby in the UK is split between the different countries (Eng, N.Ire, Wales and Scot) as well as the different governing bodies who control those countries. For example, in the 2021-22 season, the English RFU reported revenues of £189.1 million.
However, the UK will also include the WRU and the SRU who control rugby in Wales and Scotland respectively. The SRU has recently raised around £58 million in revenue, while the WRU has reported a turnover of £94.3 million in their most recent reports. This does not include the money raised in revenue for the broadcasters of the sport.
BT Sport and other rugby broadcasters will also be getting some of the money that is being generated by viewers of the sport. This makes it very difficult to estimate how much money is generated by rugby in the UK. The stated estimate figure based on the figures from each union as well as the likely revenue from broadcasting that rugby produces.
Is Rugby Union growing in England?
At the moment, it seems like Rugby Union is not growing in England. In terms of participation levels, rugby is certainly decreasing at the moment. The participation levels had been decreasing in the years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic and they have not recovered to pre pandemic levels yet.
Participation numbers have been hurt by the pandemic as well as safety concerns about the game. In terms of viewership, it is hard to tell whether Rugby Union is growing in England. Premiership Rugby is struggling financially, with two teams going into administration in the past 12 months.
This is a sign that Rugby Union is likely not growing in England at the moment. It is difficult to tell however considering that rugby growing is a loose term and difficult to put down to a single metric. But considering the decreasing participation levels and the dwindling finances, it seems like rugby is not growing in England at the moment.
How many people watch rugby in England?
Rugby is still one of the most popular sports in England, mainly due to the history that the sport has in England. So how many people watch rugby in England?
It is believed that the rugby audience in England is around 12 million people, making it slightly less popular to watch than Formula One, but slightly more popular than international cricket. This audience tends to be the maximum amount of people that are watching rugby in a year.
This does not mean that 12 million people are watching rugby at any one time. Instead, it means that the amount of people who have watched rugby in a year in the UK is 12 million, making it one of the most popular sports in the UK.
This is also a combination of different rugby competitions. In the UK it includes the Six Nations, Premiership Rugby and the United Rugby Championship. This figure does also include the UK audience for the European Champions Cup as well as the European Challenge Cup.
Where is Rugby Union popular in England?
Within England, there are really two concentrated areas where rugby is most popular. Rugby Union is most popular in England in the Southwest and the Midlands.
The Southwest of the country is where rugby is particularly popular. This is shown by the concentration of professional rugby in the Southwest. Bristol Bears, Bath, Gloucester and Exeter Chiefs are all based in the Southwest of England. Bristol, Bath and Gloucester are particularly close together.
Despite their close proximity, all three have a large fanbase and are some of the most historic teams in the Premiership. The fan base in the Southwest is large, with football being less popular than average in the Southwest. Participation levels tend to also be higher in the Southwest than other regions.
Rugby Union is also massively popular in some areas of the midlands. Leicester and Northampton have two of the best fan bases in England, showing the popularity of Rugby Union in the area. The two teams have a huge history in that region which has helped to make the sport increasingly popular in those areas.
There is also some popularity for rugby in London. There are currently three Premiership teams in London, with the home of Rugby Union Twickenham also being located in London. Rugby is not as popular as football in the capital, but there is still some popularity for the sport in London.
Why is Rugby Union less popular in the north of England?
Rugby League is by far the more popular code of Rugby in the north of England. Let’s take a look at why this is the case.
Rugby Union historically became less popular because Rugby League was more often played by working class men and there were more working-class men in the north of England when Rugby was becoming popular in the 19th century.
As Rugby Union did not want to become professional, Rugby League did go pro so that they could pay their working-class players. This meant that Rugby League became much more popular in the north of England, with Rugby Union only becoming professional almost a century after Rugby League.
Rugby Union has also rarely made much of an effort to become popular in the north of England. For example, there are only two professional rugby teams in the north of England, Sales Sharks and Newcastle Falcons. Major northern cities like Liverpool, Leeds and Wigan are all without professional Rugby Union teams.
Rugby Union has never been able to compete with Rugby League in the north of England, and it seems unlikely this will ever change.