Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter

Why is football so popular in the UK?

Question asked by Bilal from Nepal

To say football is a way of life for most Brits would be a gross under-statement. It evokes a level of passion and comradery that can baffle someone who doesn’t support a football team.

Choosing a team is often a family affair or a matter of where you live. But once you have chosen a team it is a life-long commitment. Supporting them through both good and bad times!

Footballs unwavering popularity in the UK has lasted for centuries and may have something to do with the fact that the English invented the sport in 1170 and as any proud Brit will tell you it is England’s national sport!

The first football club to be set-up was Sheffield F.C. in 1857. This was followed by the creation of the Football Association, in 1863, which established the rules of the modern game. And England played its first official international match, in 1872, against Scotland.

Photography of football team that played the first official international game against Scotland

Today, there are over 40,000 registered football clubs in England, almost twice as many as Brazil. Most of the biggest names are in the Premier League and these clubs command legions of supporters from around the world.

Thanks to the simplicity of the game and the fact you don’t need much more than a ball to play it means it is as popular amongst school children as it is office workers.

You can safely assume most universities, colleges, places of work have a team and it is a great way to get to know people, both on and off the pitch due to the obligatory after-game drink in the pub!

The game is easy enough to understand, both as a player and a spectator. You have 11 players in each team. The match lasts 90 minutes, split into two 45-minute halves, and the aim of the game is to score by getting the ball past the opposite teams goal keeper and into their goal. 

If after 90 minutes the score is equal the match is a draw although some cup competitions go into extra time, which can last up to 30 minutes and if the score remains tied the match is either replayed or a penalty shootout can be used to decide the winner.

Simple enough, right?  Well, yes until you get to the offside rule, which makes most people scratch their head.  Essentially the rule applies when a player is ahead of all the defenders on the opposite team and the ball is either passed to them or they try to interfere with the opponents players or get involved in the game. Got that! 

British football wouldn’t be complete without the songs supporters sing at matches. One of the most famous is the one sung by fans of Liverpool F.C. called ‘You'll never walk alone’.

Lyrics to You’ll never walk alone


When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone


Back to more ask a brit


$("#adsskyscraper").bxSlider({ infiniteLoop: true, auto:true, speed: 2000, pause: 9000, controls: false, mode: "fade" });