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Old 10-07-2013, 01:08 PM   #1
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Default The world's second biggest sport?

Clearly football is by far the biggest sport in the world, but which sport do you think comes in second place? To me the three contenders that spring to mind are Basketball, Cricket and F1.

Basketball:
It is the clear no. 1 sport in very few countries. It is definitely no. 1 in Lithuania and the Philippines. Plus I gather that it has overtaken football as no. 1 in Lebanon, and may have overtaken baseball as no. 1 in Puerto Rico. I don’t know exactly where it ranks compared to other sports in China, but basketball-mania has seen courts explode in pretty much every region of the country there.

However it is comfortably one of the 3 most popular sports in many countries around the world, at least 40 or so by my count, across Europe (especially Eastern Europe), Africa, Asia and the Americas. Crucially it is huge in the important Chinese and US markets, and one of the biggest sports in many of the other most populous countries in the world like Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, Russia etc.

The FIBA World Cup will expand to 32 teams from 2019, with next year’s tournament in Spain the last edition with 24 teams. The next rugby world cup will have 20 teams, and the next cricket world cup only 14 teams.

Another argument in basketball’s favour, is that even in countries where it is not among the most popular sports, it still has a decent presence with professional/semi pro leagues and university and school programmes.

Cricket:
By far the biggest sport and bordering on a religion in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which account for over 21% of the world’s population. It is one of the biggest sports in most countries in the Commonwealth, which has a population of over 2.2 billion people, although there are some exceptions like Canada, Malaysia and Ghana. It is said that Australia’s cricket captain has the second most important job in the country, after the prime-minister.

The ICC Cricket World Cup is the third most viewed sporting event in the world, after the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. The IPL is the second richest league in the world after the NBA in terms of the average salary per player.

Obviously it’s the sport’s popularity in the Indian subcontinent which pretty much single-handedly drives its numbers up against other sports. In the world’s most populous country China, interest is spread over a wider range of sports, so individually no one sport there that compares to cricket in India.

However on the flipside, unlike basketball, in a lot of countries where cricket isn’t popular, it has next to no presence at all, with barely anyone even knowing what the sport is or its rules, and universities and schools not offering cricket programmes.

Formula 1:
I don’t really follow F1 much, but I know it’s a huge multi-billion dollar industry; by far the most high profile and lucrative global sporting tour each year. Its huge TV audiences make it comfortably the world’s most watched annual sports series. Next year I believe that there will be 22 races on the FIA calendar.


What do you guys think? I would go for basketball. Maybe there are other contenders which I’ve overlooked.

Last edited by LeChuck : 10-07-2013 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 10-07-2013, 01:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Fair point about cricket if it so popular in few countries with big population but if 80% of world aren't playing it at all,it can't be considered as one of biggest sports
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Old 10-07-2013, 01:18 PM   #3
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

F1 is not a sport, rather a espectacle. I have serious doubts about if cricket is a sport really.
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Old 10-07-2013, 02:03 PM   #4
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

I think that's what counts against cricket compared to basketball. Basketball is more widely played and followed in countries where it is not that popular. Cricket is seen as completely irrelevant in countries where it is not too popular. It actually has been growing in popularity in quite a few African countries, but basketball has been growing at a far greater rate in the continent.

I think that volleyball has the most national federations in the world out of any sport, at 218, but there isn't anywhere near the same money or profile in volleyball compared to basketball or cricket. The same applies for field hockey which has among the highest participation figures in the world, but doesn't generate the same level of revenue of other sports.

I like rugby, but I feel that some of its fans and its governing body, the IRB, overstate its popularity. One of the biggest myths I've heard is that the Rugby World Cup is the third biggest sporting event in the world when it clearly isn't (the European Football Championship is far bigger for starters). Among the 20 most populous countries in the world, rugby isn't a mainstream sport in any of them.

I think tennis's global popularity is very impressive, considering it is seen as an expensive, middle class sport (certainly to play professionally), and is an individual sport which is harder to follow than team sports.

Obviously tennis isn't close to being the no. 1 sport in any country. Is it even the no. 2 sport in any? Possibly France where the sport has the second highest number of licensed players after football, although I'm not sure how it ranks compared to rugby, cycling, handball and basketball there. Or maybe Chile?

After football, basketball probably has the best combination of both huge global participation and a lot of revenue.

Last edited by LeChuck : 10-07-2013 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 10-07-2013, 02:04 PM   #5
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

never saw 1 minute of cricket in my life
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Old 10-07-2013, 03:53 PM   #6
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

How would you classify sports in the martial arts or track and field area? It's hard to do since there are so many varieties but those usually have a very wide appeal.

I would agree with basketball at 2.
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Old 10-07-2013, 04:07 PM   #7
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Baseball should be somewhere in this conversation. It's strong in North America, the Caribbean, northern Latin America (Venezuela, Mexico, Central America) and much of East Asia besides mainland China (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan). Still obviously far behind football (soccer) and probably also basketball though.
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Old 10-07-2013, 04:11 PM   #8
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

How do you define big? Clearly not most athletes, as then F1 is not an option. Most money involved?

For number of people performing the sport more than just for leasure, I believe Volleyball is the biggest. But there's not a whole lot of money in it.
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Old 10-07-2013, 04:13 PM   #9
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Htom Sirveaux View Post
Baseball should be somewhere in this conversation. It's strong in North America, the Caribbean, northern Latin America (Venezuela, Mexico, Central America) and much of East Asia besides mainland China (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan). Still obviously far behind football (soccer) and probably also basketball though.
Baseball was thrown out of the Olympics for being too small.....if you just count number of nations with a serious league, they come up short.
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Old 10-07-2013, 04:51 PM   #10
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Litotes View Post
Baseball was thrown out of the Olympics for being too small.....if you just count number of nations with a serious league, they come up short.
Asinine decision by the IOC
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Old 10-07-2013, 05:00 PM   #11
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Litotes View Post
Baseball was thrown out of the Olympics for being too small.....if you just count number of nations with a serious league, they come up short.
Its Olympic status was certainly hurt thanks to being played in relatively few countries, but many of the countries that do play it have massive population; it's clearly a more popular game overall than several niche sports that remain in the Olympics only because they're played all over the world. And I didn't follow the Olympics ejection closely (I don't care about the event in the slightest), but I do remember hearing that politics/Anti-Americanism played a part in the decision.
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Old 10-07-2013, 05:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

I think baseball has the same problem as cricket in that while it is incredibly popular in numerous countries, is a fringe sport at best in most other regions.

By my count it is the no. 1 sport in 8 or 9 different countries (Japan, Venezuela, Taiwan, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama and Curaçao), and the no. 2 sport in another 3 or 4 (USA, México and South Korea), with the baseball/basketball situation in Puerto Rico being the debatable case. But I think that cricket's sheer popularity and fanaticism in the Indian subcontinent alone (which does translate into a lot of money) is enough to see it above baseball though.

Athletics/Track and field is a very tricky one to measure. Obviously it is the main sport at the Olympics (and the ticket prices at London last year did reflect that), and the men's 100m final is its showpiece event with the world standing still for 10 seconds as they say. And there have been high profile and successful athletics stars from pretty much every corner of the globe apart from the Indian subcontinent and Middle East maybe (although Syria did have a gold medalist heptathlete at the 1995 World Championships and 1996 Olympics).
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Old 10-07-2013, 05:07 PM   #13
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Htom Sirveaux View Post
Its Olympic status was certainly hurt thanks to being played in relatively few countries, but many of the countries that do play it have massive population; it's clearly a more popular game overall than several niche sports that remain in the Olympics only because they're played all over the world. And I didn't follow the Olympics ejection closely (I don't care about the event in the slightest), but I do remember hearing that politics/Anti-Americanism played a part in the decision.
The ejection was probably more anti-Cuba, they were after all the ones winning most of the gold medals, even though they lost to the South Koreans last time out in 2008. If the US had cared for baseball in the OG they could at least have sent teams strong enough to beat the Cubans.

Basically, though, the OG prefers being the biggest event in every participating sport's calendar, the event everyone does everything to win. There's nothing bigger than OG for a solid majority of participating sports. Obviously, that's not the case for baseball, so they were always likely to have less support. Of course, it's not the case for football either, but that's simply too big to be left out. Tennis was also a reluctant entry back in 1988.
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Old 10-07-2013, 05:15 PM   #14
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Olympic baseball is in the muddle of the MLB season so none of the top players go represent their country.
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Old 10-07-2013, 05:16 PM   #15
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Default Re: The world's second biggest sport?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Litotes View Post
How do you define big? Clearly not most athletes, as then F1 is not an option. Most money involved?

For number of people performing the sport more than just for leasure, I believe Volleyball is the biggest. But there's not a whole lot of money in it.
I guess I was going for any combination of factors really, whether it is professional or recreational participation, TV ratings, money and advertising etc. Basically which ever factors people view as most important. I understand that this is incredibly subjective and am interested to see how people view this.

I personally would give the silver medal to basketball and bronze medal to athletics/track and field.

I think overall volleyball would comfortably be in the top 10, at least. There are some professional leagues across Europe, the Far East and of course Brazil where it is the second most popular sport behind football. Of course for men a lot of other sports would pay a lot more. I think for women though, the pay in those leagues might be pretty good compared to a lot of other sports.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Htom Sirveaux View Post
Its Olympic status was certainly hurt thanks to being played in relatively few countries, but many of the countries that do play it have massive population; it's clearly a more popular game overall than several niche sports that remain in the Olympics only because they're played all over the world. And I didn't follow the Olympics ejection closely (I don't care about the event in the slightest), but I do remember hearing that politics/Anti-Americanism played a part in the decision.
I don't like baseball at all (I follow the NHL, NFL and NBA but can't stand the MLB and pay no attention to the LMB here in México), but I think that it should still be an olympic sport. I do think the IOC and decision making is heavily European dominated.

Handball is a heavily European dominated sport, but I think deserves to remain an olympic sport (it is a lot of fun to watch), as does baseball. I guess some other problems are the whole baseball for men/softball for women scenario (the IOC prefer a more integrated set-up for men and women). Also I the olympic baseball movement traditionally hasn't received a lot of the support overall from MLB officials and players, which hurts a lot.
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