What comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘football’? Is it the ball, the players, the field or the crowd? You may visualize a lot more other things also, which have contributed to the popularity of the sport. With numerous sports available, familiar to football, which according to you is the greatest of them all?
There are so many reasons as to why football is popular. A few can be the salary, the team you favor, the simplicity of the game, etc. Apart from these reasons, the main reason is the sporting passion. The passion that every follower has towards the sport is something that does not go out of fashion. Gladness when won and Grief on defeat are what the players and fans share together in the field.
Football can be referred to as the ‘most popular’, ‘most watched’, and ‘most played’ or even as the ‘most revenue-generating’ sport. Why is football popular? We have listed down 25 reasons as to why the sport has reached millions of people.
1. World Cup – the most popular tournament in the world
One of the most important reason for the football sport to be so popular is the FIFA World Cup that is conducted four years once since the inception of the competition in 1930. The FIFA World Cup, or simply World Cup, is an international association football competition conducted by the senior men’s national teams of the members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association which is the governing body of football.
France is the reigning champion, which won its second title at the 2018 tournament in Russia. Top players like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar compete in the World Cup, which entices millions and millions of spectators. The 1949-50 season saw the highest attendance of 173,850 at the Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, which featured Brazil vs Uruguay final.
The sport with both newbies and legendary star players has always had millions of fans supporting the tournament. The World Cup has always been globally viewed and followed the sporting event in the world, with the first event televised in 1954.
2. Football features the best athletes in the world
Another interesting reason for the popularity of the sport is the presence of globally popular stars. There has been a football era dominated by the two most popular and extremely different players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. They are different on the basis of shapes and sizes.
Their two amazing different styles tell us that football is a game that can be played by people of all shapes and sizes. Lionel Messi, small and slim, is as competitive as Ronaldo, tall and muscularly built. Messi is compared with the greatest retired footballers of all time Maradona and Pele, as he is swift with the ball and has the strength to survive the fierce defending.
Even now, with plenty of professional players available, Messi and Ronaldo are the two names chanted by people across the world, their status and the styles even bigger perhaps than the clubs they play for. According to the Forbes Magazine, Messi and Ronaldo are in the second and third place respectively on the list of 2018’s highest-paid sportsmen in the world, after the top boxer Floyd Mayweather.
The two popular footballers have set an unreachable record in the game’s history, with Messi having scored 670 senior career goals and Ronaldo with 690 senior career goals, as of 14 February 2019.
3. Local Derbies
The local derbies are one of the most important reasons for the popularity of football. The derbies featured in football are enticing and entertaining. Generally, the local derbies happen between two clubs of the same city all over the world. The audiences cheer up their favorite team and violence is not uncommon during the derbies. Some of the popular derbies are listed below:
The matches between City and United is called as the Manchester Derby and the first Manchester derby was conducted in 1881. Taking into account all the competitions, the two teams have met 177 times so far. Their meetings have resulted as follow; City – 52, United – 73, Draw – 52.
The football matches between the two major England based clubs Everton and Liverpool are called as the Merseyside derby. The first Merseyside derby happened in 1894. A total of 232 meetings have been recorded between the two, which have resulted as; Everton – 66, Liverpool – 93, Draw – 73.
North London derby
One of the highest attention seeker local derby in England is the derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Their first clash was during the 1909-10 Football League, which was won by Arsenal 1-0. The two clubs have met 197 times and their meetings have resulted as; Arsenal – 82, Tottenham – 64, Draw – 51.
Second City derby
The first Second City Derby was held in 1879 and Aston Villa won the game against the Birmingham City 4-2. Both the teams are equally strong and the derby is one of the most watched in English Football. The meeting has happened 125 times and has resulted as; Aston Villa – 55, Birmingham City – 38, Draw – 32.
4. Fierce Rivalries
The rivalry matches are the best part of football. When the fixtures are confirmed and revealed, people get excited and wait for the best times of the season to come (Rivalry matches). These rivalry matches can be seen with the same hate and passion by the spectators towards the opposing clubs.
Some of the popular rivalries are discussed below:
The matches between the fierce rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid is popularly called El Clasico. The rivalry has happened a total of 273 times which includes 34 exhibition matches and 239 competitive matches. Of the 239 competitive matches, 95 matches have been won by Real Madrid and 20 exhibition matches have been won by Barcelona. Therefore Barcelona has the most wins with 113.
The matches between two high-profile inter-city clubs Liverpool and Manchester United is called as the Northwest Derby. Considering all the competitions played by the two clubs so far, they have met 201 times and has resulted as the following; Liverpool – 66, Manchester United – 80, Draw – 55.
The rivalry between Arsenal and Chelsea has been carried out since the 1908-07 Football League. The two clubs have met on the field 197 times, with Arsenal – 76, Chelsea – 63, Draw – 58. The largest victory of the derby came in 2014, with a 6-0 win for Chelsea.
Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur rivalry
The Chelsea vs Tottenham rivalry has been in existence since the 1909-10 Football League. The first match between the two was won by Chelsea 2-1. So far the rivalry has happened 163 times and has resulted as follow; Chelsea – 69, Tottenham – 54, Draw – 40.
Rivalries are also created through continental matchups like Barcelona vs. Chelsea, Manchester United vs Juventus, Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid are some of the evolving rivalries.
5. Transfer Deals
The transfer deals of the players from one club to another have always been expensive in football. The players on high demand claim higher payment when they are being transferred. The popularity of the sport increases with the favorite players playing for a new club from thenceforth.
The various transfer records set by the players are listed below:
- The first recorded transfer deal occurred in 1893, where the Scottish professional football player Willie Groves was transferred from West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa for £100 in 1893.
- The current transfer of the Brazilian professional footballer Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for €222 million (£198 million) on 3 August 2017 has hit the world football transfer record.
- The player to break the national league record at the time of transfer is the Brazilian footballer Philippe Coutinho, who was signed for €120 from Liverpool to Barcelona with €40 million bonuses.
6. Salary of the Players
One of the important reasons for the popularity of football is the salary of the players. The football players are paid lucratively high on the basis of their performance. The best players are being transferred from one club to another and are offered a high salary.
According to the 2018 Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid soccer players is listed below:
- Lionel Messi – $111 million
- Cristiano Ronaldo – $108 million
- Neymar – $90 million
- Gareth Bale – $34.6 million
- Paul Pogba – $29.5 million
The FC Barcelona forward player Lionel Messi is the highest-paid player, who earns $111 million, taking home $84 million as salary and winning and $27 million as an endorsement.
7. Domestic Competitions
The popularity of football reached its peak because of the various competitions available for the sport. Each country has its own cup competition, which is conducted between clubs qualifying from various levels. These cup competitions give the lower league clubs a chance to play against the top clubs. Some of the famous cup competitions are explained below;
England’s FA Cup is the most famous domestic cup competition that features more than 700 teams. It was founded in 1871 and is considered as the oldest national football competition in the world. The clubs fight for the FA Cup trophy and team Arsenal is the most successful club having won 13 titles so far.
Coppa Italia is another famous Italian football cup competition in which 78 teams take part. It was founded in 1922 and is the qualifier round for the UEFA Europa League. Club Juventus is the most successful team that has won 13 titles so far.
8. Continental Competitions
Each and every continent where football is played and encouraged has a continental competition. The supremacy of a club is determined based on this competition. One of the most famous continental tournaments is the UEFA European Championship in Europe and there are many more famous continental championships.
With numerous competitions available in football, the popularity of football has increased as the audiences cheer for their favorite team if their favorite team reaches the finals of the competition. The various continental tournaments are;
- Africa – Africa Cup of Nations
- Asia – Asian Cup
- North America – CONCACAF Gold Cup
- South America – Copa America
- Oceania – Nations Cup
- Europe – European Championship
9. Role of Media
The live coverage of the matches with the timely updates has globally enhanced the popularity of football. The competitiveness among the channels for broadcasting the matches of the league shows the importance and popularity of the sport.
The channels like BBC, Skysport, and ESPN highlight the events on a contract basis. The TV right deals are handed over to channels on yearly basis. For example, the channels Sky and BT renewed their contracts with the Premier League for another three upcoming years up to the 2018–19 season by paying £5.136 billion.
The transfer deals and the salary earnings of every player can be known via various articles available online. The record and achievements of every player are recorded and listed down in sites that can be easily referred and followed. With such facilities available now, the sport has reached the top spot.
10. Influence of Television
How would it be, if we had no means to watch the live action of the sport? To watch one’s favorite team play in the field is the ultimate aim of every football fan. Therefore, the creation of television enhanced the popularity of football infinitely.
The first-ever football game was televised in England in 1937, whereas the first World Cup was televised in 1954. The matches that were televised for the first time captured the imaginations of those watching, which was further encouraged to broadcast each and every match played on the field.
Nowadays, one can find the match available on almost every platform like TV, Internet streams, and even on the radio in which live commentaries can be tuned in.
11. History of the Sport
History of the sport plays a vital role in its popularity. Football has a rich history of the clubs and countries with intense rivalries and competitiveness. Football is considered the world’s most popular ball game in terms of participants and audiences.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the governing body of football. The modern football originated in Britain in the 19th century. ‘Folk football’ games were played in villages and towns before the medieval times, with a minimum of rules.
Initially, football was practiced as a winter game between residence houses at public (independent) schools such as Winchester, Charterhouse, and Eton. Each school had its own rules, with some allowing limited handling of the ball and others did not.
By the early days of 1843, an attempt to standardize and codify the rules of the sport was made at the University of Cambridge. In 1863 after a series of meetings, printed rules of football were produced which prohibited the carrying of the ball. By 1870, FA completely prohibited handling of the ball by hand with an exception for the goalkeeper.
12. Epic Stadiums
The historic stadiums play a major role in the popularity of football. Every time a football fan enters the stadium, a sense of respect and amazement is felt by the spectators. Plenty of stadiums have been established so far that can accommodate thousands of audiences.
The capacity of the stadiums have gradually increased and stadiums like Anfield, Old Trafford, Camp Nou, Maracana, Azteca, and the Bernabeu have existed for years. These stadiums have featured many historic matches and have contributed more for the popularity of the sport.
Camp Nou, which is the largest stadium in Spain and Europe is also the third largest stadium in the world after Rungrado 1st of May Stadium and Melbourne Cricket Ground with a seating capacity of 99,354. Listed below are some of the oldest stadiums that have lasted for years.
|Name of the Stadium||Year of Construction||Seat Capacity|
|St. James Park||1880||52,388|
|Parc Des Princes||1897||47,929|
13. It’s not just about kicking the ball, it’s about emotion!
Most of the football fans say, “Football is not just a game, it is an emotion!” This has been proved by Clovis Acosta Fernandes, a Brazilian Soccer Superfan. A photo was taken during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, during which Fernandes was spotted, on the night of the first semi-final, when Germany defeated Brazil 7-1.
The match ended in the first thirty minutes, with Germany having won the trophy. The emotion of the broken heart, the shock and the pain of not winning the title can be very clearly seen in the eyes of Fernandes. Almost every Brazilian fan across the globe was disappointed and disheartened.
Fernandes carried a replica trophy to the game and after facing the unexpected defeat, he handed over it to a German fan. To imagine how he might have felt that night is unimaginable. Fernandes could not see his team win another cup as he passed away in 2015.
14. Managers on High Demand
Apart from the game on the field, the coaching and training given by a manager play a major role in football. The role of a manager is not confined to training, the new player’s transfer deals and contracts of the existing players are all managed by the managers. The deciding strategy of a manager reflects on the field as the players take positions and play the game.
Therefore the manager position in football is one of the most challenging jobs because of which the managers are on high demand. According to the list of managers in each club, it can be interpreted that the manager of a club does not remain in the same club for more than three seasons.
The clubs that have changed managers 20 and more than that since the inception of Premier League in 1992 are listed below.
- Newcastle United – 22
- Chelsea -21
- Tottenham Hotspur – 21
- Southampton – 20
Clubs Crystal Palace and Aston Villa have changed 18 managers since the League’s inception. Two clubs have been avoiding frequent manager firing and hiring process Arsenal and Manchester United.
Arsenal club’s manager Arsène Wenger holds the record for most games managed in the Premier League (i.e.) 828 games. Wenger broke the record set by the former United team’s manager Alex Ferguson, who had managed 810 games from the Premier League’s inception to his retirement at the end of the 2012–13 season.
Sam Allardyce is one of the successful managers, who has managed the most teams in the Premier League, managing seven different clubs: Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, and Everton.
15. Impact of Commentators
The excitement and the enthusiasm in the field are sustained in the stadium with the help of the commentators. The commentator updates the spectators with the time-to-time happening in the field. Every individual present in the stadium does not get a clear view of the match. In such a case, the commentary helps to understand what is happening at the moment.
The time-to-time happenings are announced by the commentators and one of the most famous commentators in the history of football is Martin Tyler, who was voted as the FA Premier League Commentator of the Decade in 2003. He has been the Premier League matches commentator since its inception in 1992.
Tyler’s voice became well-known all over the world, with his iconic call of Sergio Aguero’s goal which won the Manchester City the 2011-12 Premier League season. Ian Darke is another famous English association football who has commentated on 2014, 2016 and 2017 FA Cup final. He worked alongside the former Liverpool footballer Steve McManaman for ESPN.
16. The Role of Promotion and Relegation
Football practices a system of promotion and relegation in which top teams of competition are promoted to the next level tournament, whereas the bottom three teams go down the relegation zone to the second-tier competition. If a club gets promoted to a higher league, then they get high financial benefits and fan recognition.
To reach the next level league and win the tournament is the ultimate aim of every club, and to see their favorite team in the finals is the ultimate wish of every football fan. The continuous support and encouragement of the spectators have resulted in the popularity of football.
With the Football League system framed, the clubs are ranked according to the points scored in each match and fixtures for the next competition are fixed based on their final points.
17. Betting Opportunities
The popularity of the sport increases with the availability of the betting options. Betting on football is a worldwide practiced activity that most of the football fans consider betting to be more exciting than the game itself. With numerous leagues and matches available in football, the chances of betting increases proportionally.
Each and every match is taken into account by the bookmakers and bets are fixed by them in accordance with the implied probability (referring the records of the event that has happened before and the chances of a team to win that event on that day).
The win-draw-lose results have betting odds on which the bettors stake amount and earn if the match ends in their favor. Till date, there are a huge number of betting sites that provide tips and allow you to bet as you watch the event (Live bet).
18. Non-Violent Sport
It is hard to find violence in football which is another contributing factor to the popularity of the sport. It is true that players get injured during matches but that does not come under violence.
Football is a non-violent game because, if the referee who officiates the game finds a player being violent he has the authority to send him out of the field. A referee initially warns a player with a yellow card indicating that he has been officially cautioned for his violent conduct or any purposeful obstruction of the opponent’s goal.
The yellow card is given as a warning twice and for the third time, the player gets a red card which may lead to serious consequences for the player as well as the team. With such strict rules, the footballers try their best to avoid offenses in the field.
19. Simplicity of the Sport
Football is a sport, which needs a ball, flat ground, and some players. The ball is shared by the players and the entire ground is used. Right from available neighborhood football pitches to the biggest football stadiums in the world, you can find the fans of football playing the game, cheering, and encouraging their favorite team.
With the simplicity and the ease of playing the sport, it is being practiced globally and its popularity is growing day by day. The fans and followers of the clubs and leagues schedule their day in accordance with the events so that they do not miss the match of their favorite team.
Having debates amongst rival fans is quite common and it can be seen the most among the football fans. Though it is true that the team players undergo rigorous training for months even before the league starts and follow various strategies to win, the sport requires no special skill and therefore anyone can play it without being trained
20. Age – Not a Criterion
As the name suggests, the age of a player to play football is not restricted. Most of the professional sports like Basketball and American football have age criterion to be satisfied if a player wants to play. This has been a great contributing factor to the popularity of the sport.
For example, if a person wants to draft in as the NFL player, then it is required that the person is out of high school for at least three years before they can play. If a boy graduates in 17, then he has to wait till he turns 20 to play in the NFL.
In NBA, a player must be out of high school for at least one year before they can enter the draft. The simplicity of the sport is another reason for not limiting the age of a player. Once a club decides that a player is ready to play, they can be introduced to the team.
21. The Unpredictable Gameplay
Football is an unpredictable sport as it involves action until the last whistle of the referee. If the results are on a tie, then extra minutes are given to decide the winner and hence the spectators have to hold on their breaths till the last minute.
The gameplay varies from club to club depending on the strategies decided by the team’s manager. Goals can be scored at any instant from anywhere. For example, In EPL, with the Big Six teams fighting for the title, Leicester city winning the EPL title during the 2015-2016 season was something unexpected.
Yes, it is the same team that was in the relegation zone two years back which came back to win the title defeating big clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, and the Arsenal.
22. Easy and Understandable
The principal rules being very simple and with no equipment required, the sport can be played almost anywhere, from official football stadiums to school playgrounds. In order to understand the match, all you need to do is concentrate on the ball.
With the focus on the ball, it might sometimes be difficult to find the goal moment as the greatest kicks always happen in half of a second. Footballers are swift and smart with the ball and have no time to hesitate to pass the ball. There are very few technical terms like the offside, goal, a throw-in that can be learned quickly.
Before proceeding, they need to completely concentrate on the game and try to understand the weak points of the opponent and must also grasp their teams littlest signs in the blink of an eye. That’s called real teamwork!
23. Skills and Techniques
Though the sport has very simple rules and goes up to 90 minutes, the sport is never boring as every minute something new, something unexpected happens on the field. If the fixture is between two top teams or if two top quality players are on the pitch, then the match is a treat to watch.
The sport is full of excitement and suspense, with the penalties, substitutions and the players defending in the most professional ways and scoring goals with incredible techniques.
The headers and throw in are some of the learned skills performed by the professionals. Each club follows a strategy of winning decided by the managers who are not only the trainers but also manage the lineup of the club.
24. Unexpected Outcomes
Outcomes are the best part! The excitement of a sport should prevail till the end of the match and that is how the popularity of a sport is achieved. Unlike many other sports in which after a particular duration, people can roughly estimate the final result of the event, football is a game which surprises the audiences with unpredictable outcomes at the end.
The transition of the ball from one player to another itself grabs the attention of the spectators till the end of the match. Every match in a league or in any friendly match can turn into a series changer and can change the entire cycle of the matches in accordance with the points grabbed by the teams.
According to the manager’s plan, various strategies are followed by the clubs and hence every game is important. Football is not a one-game outcome decider, the events are interlinked and the output of one event decides the ranking of the clubs in the competition’s table.
25. Unity in Diversity
Football can be described as a sport filled with excitement, enthusiasm, screaming, and fun. People from different countries, tribes, and race are united in the name of football and cheer for the one that has scored despite his community.
Though the clubs from various countries participate in a league, their goal is the same and that is to win the match without any discrimination. Even in stadiums, spectators from various places gather to cheer up their favorite team. Football unites people from various cast and creed and that is how it has achieved its popularity today.