Rugby Union's Global Fan Base

January 30, 2013, 12:39 PM GMT+0

Emerging rugby nations have strong platforms to establish the sport over the next ten years

As major rugby union events enter the new markets of Brazil, Russia and Japan over the coming decade, each of the three hosts have managed to establish keen public interest in the sport, which could be harnessed to boost the tournaments’ success and develop rugby union further.

This is just one of many findings within ‘The Global Fan Base of Rugby Union’, the latest in a series of reports by SMG Insight / YouGov, analysing leading trends in public interest in sport across countries and regions worldwide.

Host nations

Brazil, Japan, and Russia, - hosts of the 2016 Olympic Games, 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup respectively – have solid bases upon which to build this growing interest, with 16%, 21% and 16% of each of their adult urban populations in turn liking rugby union.

At the same time, a further 38% in Brazil, 65% in Japan and 42% in Russia have a ‘neutral’ viewpoint of the sport, thus providing a potential source of additional fans in the run-up to events. However, the depth of dedicated interest is actually far lower than in traditional markets, with just 2-4% in Japan, for example, considering themselves to be ‘hardcore’ fans or ‘rugby lovers’.

Main outcomes

Further key findings in the report include:

  • South Africa has the largest proportion of rugby supporters with 70% liking the sport, followed by New Zealand at 63%. South Africa also has the highest number of hardcore rugby fans or rugby lovers at 32%
  • The proportion of adult female followers in South Africa and New Zealand is at 62% and 57% respectively, both figures being more in line with levels of male support for rugby union in every other country
  • Wales has the largest fan base amongst European nations at 44%, narrowly ahead of France at 42%. The depth of dedicated support is also far greater amongst the Welsh, with 25% of the adult population proclaiming themselves to be rugby lovers and making it one of only two countries where the most avid fans outnumber the more casual followers, the other market being Ireland
  • France has the largest number of fans in absolute terms with 21.7 million people liking the sport
  • The sport attracts most of its followers from within the high-income earning bracket and in 12 of the 14 countries surveyed the majority of supporters could be found within this group.

Commenting on the report, Frank Saez, Managing Director of SMG Insight / YouGov says, “In addition to quantifying the fan base in the traditional rugby heartlands, this report highlights recent success in developing the sport in Argentina and Italy during the past decade, as well as opportunities to grow the rugby union fan base around the world. We look forward to tracking the development of the sport in the future.”

The Global Fan Base of Rugby Union details the interest in rugby union amongst adults in 14 countries, including the 10 IRB tier-1 nations (Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales) plus the hosts of the three next major rugby tournaments outside of these nations – Russia (2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup), Brazil (2016 Olympic Games including the first Olympic rugby sevens event) and Japan (2019 Rugby World Cup). The report also includes the US, given its position as the world’s leading sports market, its involvement in the sport as a tier-2 nation with a large grassroots base and its potential to host the Rugby World Cup in the future.

The interest in rugby in each country is assessed on a gender, age and income basis and the rugby fan base is also sub-divided into age groups.

Click here to order "The Global Fan Base of Rugby Union" report free of charge