Featured News

UK sports attendance figures fall by 80 per cent in 2020

Sports attendance across the UK has unsurprisingly plummeted by 80 per cent in 2020 when compared with last year’s record 75.1 million attendances, according to new analysis.

The vast majority of the 15.5 million attendances this year came between January 1 and March 15, before government restrictions were first introduced due to Covid-19. The two and a half month period saw the Premier League attract attendances of 3.9 million across 89 fixtures, while 252,000 fans attended the four-day horse racing 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 approximately 184,000.

Two Circles, which processes sports fan ticketing data for marketing insight, said football will attract a cumulative attendance of 13 million across the year – an 83 per cent share of all UK attendances in 2020, up from 67 per cent in 2019 – while rugby union will be the only other sport to break one million attendances, with 1.1 million fans going to events. Horse racing will be the third most attended sport in 2020 with 0.7 million attendances.

Two Circles 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.

The agency claims 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 wealth. 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.”

The analysis also shows that £324m of ticketing and hospitality revenue was generated by UK sports rights-owners in 2020, with 43.6 per cent coming from buyers aged 55 and over. In 2019, a year that saw UK rights-owners generate a record £1.6bn in ticketing and hospitality revenue, 46.4 per cent came from buyers in this age range.

Image: DSanchez17 / CC BY 2.0 / Edited for size