According to analysis by PwC, 2011 has been a record year for total attendances at the UK’s biggest annual sporting events (by number of paying spectators). Attendances at the top four events – Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix, Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival, were all up on last year, with Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix enjoying their best ever crowds.
Table of the UK’s top 5 annual sporting events (by total number of paying spectators): Event Total Attendance
Julie Clark, UK head of sport at PwC, said:
“Despite uncertainties around the strength of the UK’s economic recovery, these figures demonstrate the sustained appetite for live sport in the UK. The public continue to be attracted to the live experience and sense of occasion offered by the highest profile sporting events; a trend confirmed by the huge demand for tickets to the London 2012 Olympic Games.”
A record 494,761 fans attended Wimbledon in 2011, making it the most highly attended annual sporting event in the UK for paying spectators, although with 13 days of competition it is also one of the longest. Spectator numbers were up by 1% on 2010 levels, driven in part by the opening of the new 2,000 seat Court Three.
Silverstone saw another record crowd of 315,000 over the three days of the British Grand Prix in July. 122,000 of these spectators were in attendance for the Sunday, making it the highest single day’s attendance for any sporting event in the UK, with paying spectators.
There are five horse racing events featuring in the top 10* and attendances at each one have increased in 2011 –a positive outlook for the horse racing industry. The Grand National enjoyed a record 153,583 paying spectators this year (attendance numbers can be found in Notes to Editors).
Despite the weather, over 180,000 spectators made their way to Royal St George’s golf club in Sandwich to watch the 140th Open Championship. This was a marginal 3,000 less than the last time the Open was held there in 2003. Attendance at the Open Championship is largely determined by the golf course at which it is held, and the record attendance for an Open Championship was at St Andrews in 2000, where 239,000 spectators attended.
Continuing the golf theme, a record crowd of 93,804 attended the flagship event on the European Tour, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this year, a 6% increase from 2010 attendance.
More than 28,500 fans descended on Lord’s cricket ground for the fifth and final day of the first Test against India at the end of July this year – the highest attendance for the fifth day of a Test match in the history of the ground and 4,500 more than the final day of the Ashes Test match at the same venue two years ago. This record attendance was assisted by some attractive ticket prices which were designed to encourage first time visitors to Lord’s.
Free to watch annual sporting events
The London Marathon is by far the biggest ‘free’ annual sporting event in the UK, with an estimated 1 million fans lining the 26 mile route. The Boat Race is second with up to 250,000 spectators turning out on the banks of the Thames to watch the action. However, because these events are free to watch, it is not possible to accurately monitor attendance levels.
Julie Clark, UK head of sport at PwC, added:
“These figures demonstrate that the appetite for the unique atmosphere and experience offered by the highest profile live sporting events remains as strong as ever. This is despite the threat from technological developments such as 3DTV which are constantly improving the television viewer’s experience. For sporting events that are spread over more than one day, such as the F1 Grand Prix and Royal Ascot, there remains an opportunity to increase attendance over the whole event, by targeting the earlier days that traditionally play host to the practice sessions and lower profile races and may not currently achieve sell out crowds.”
The challenge is to leverage the demand for these high profile events to generate interest and attendances at the smaller, lower key events during the rest of the year – an issue currently faced by sports such as rugby and cricket, which are struggling to sell tickets for the lower profile international matches, despite the sell out crowds for the biggest matches against the best opposition.
Julie Clark, UK head of sport at PwC, concluded:
“With the football season just about to start, we inevitably reflect on how well football attendances have stood up throughout the economic downturn, but these attendance numbers demonstrate that the British public are just as avid spectators of other sports which is great news for British sport.”
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