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UK sports attendances fall to 15.7m in 2020

The vast majority of 2020 attendances (15.5m) came between January 1 and March 15, before government restrictions were first introduced. This period saw the Premier League attract attendances of 3.9m across 89 fixtures and 252,000 fans attend the four-day Cheltenham Festival. With up to 4,000 fans currently able to attend events in ‘low-risk’ areas, December will see a cumulative UK sports attendance of 184,000.

Football will attract a cumulative attendance of 13m across the year – an 83% share of all UK attendances in 2020, up from 67% in 2019 – while rugby union (1.1m) will be the only other sport to break one million attendances. Horse racing will be the third most attended sport in 2020 with 0.7m attendances.


Total UK Sports Attendance by Sport (2020)


Two Circles analysis also found that the average age of a UK sports ticket-buyer will rise to 43.2 in 2020, up from 41.4 in 2019. This is the first year since 2012 – when the agency’s analysis of UK sports ticket-buyers began – that the average age of a buyer has risen. In 2012, the average age of a ticket-buyer was 45.1.

This is primarily due to the shape of the ticket products that could be sold in 2020. Despite restrictions on crowds, teams and events have been on-sale with season tickets, memberships and advanced tickets – products that are typically higher-priced or longer-term commitments, and more likely to be bought by ‘Boomers’, who account for over a third of UK wealth². Crowd limitations since mid-March have also meant few, if any, tickets have been made available to non-season-ticket-holders and members.

Richard Harris, Head of Ticketing and Hospitality Marketing Solutions at Two Circles, said: “Before this year’s pandemic, UK sports attendances had been on a strong growth trajectory, driven by younger generations investing in ‘Instagrammable’ and shareable experiences.

“However, younger fans tend to buy tickets closer to the event and are less likely to commit to a season-long product than older generations, this trend combined with the pandemic has seen their ticket purchasing drop since March.

“With a vaccine roll-out and the gradual return to capacity crowds on the horizon, we believe sport’s long-term trend to younger crowds will resume post-Covid, driven by a pent-up demand for collective experiences. The event promoters who succeed best in attracting fans from all demographics to their venues will be those who market brilliantly about why their shared experience is unique, and the one to attend when safe to do so.”

Additional analysis shows that £324m ticketing and hospitality revenue³ was generated by UK sports rights-owners in 2020, with 43.6% coming from buyers aged 55+. In 2019, a year that saw UK rights-owners generate a record £1.6bn in ticketing and hospitality revenue, 46.4% came from buyers aged 55+.

  1. Only paid ticketed events for professional, competitive sports events held in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are considered. Attendance figures used are those declared by the hosting rights-holder, which include the number of tickets sold and other relevant attendees granted access to the venue
  2. Office for National Statistics, 2019
  3. Total revenue generated by sales of products that grant access, via either general admission or hospitality tickets. Figures are adjusted for rebates delivered to fans as a result of cancelled or events or restricted attendance.
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