How Is Rugby Holding Up Against Other Sports?


There can be no doubt that rugby (particularly the union code of the sport) retains huge popularity in the nation of Ireland, with the emerald isle home to one of the best international teams in the world.

Of course, the relatively progressive betting and casino regulation in Ireland also make rugby wagering incredibly popular, while resources such as help punters to operate safely and with genuine peace of mind.

But just how popular is rugby from a global perspective, and what type of betting audience does it have? Let’s find out! 

At the Breakdown – The Global Popularity of Rugby

While there are many different metrics against which the popularity of sports can be measured, global viewership and support is arguably one of the most telling.

From this perspective, rugby is estimated to be the ninth most popular sport in the world, with an estimated 410 million dedicated fans located across the globe. These largely congregate in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, with fans in England, France, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa amongst the most prolific consumers of the sport.

Interestingly, this puts rugby on a par with American football from a global viewpoint, with the former arguably boasting greater popularity and exposure outside of the U.S.

In terms of TV viewership, this unsurprisingly tends to be higher in prominent rugby-playing nations, particularly those which have well-developed domestic formats and league structures.

Most notably, these include England, Australia and France, while rugby union is also the most frequently watched sport in New Zealand (comfortably ahead of cricket and netball).

Of course, television viewership and popularity is also influenced directly by TV rights and broadcasting deals, as this has a huge impact on the accessibility of the sport and the ease with which it can be consumed by armchair fans.

In the UK, for example, where rugby union has transitioned to a professional sport with a viable product and excellent league hierarchy, television audiences have recently increased by a whopping 40% following a move to the subscription-based BT Sport platform.

More specifically, Aviva Premiership Rugby recorded an average live weekend TV audience of 358,000 last season, while a combined total of 7.88 million fans watched this tournament on the channel overall. This was up from just 6.14 million during the previous season, and there’s no doubt that more fans are tuning in each year throughout the UK.

This trend is expected to continue in the near-term, and while rugby may not command the same level of TV viewership as football and tennis in the UK, it continues to remove in the right direction.

What About Internet Presence and Betting Participation?

The same level of global population exists online too, with the consumption of online broadcasts and associated Internet searches particularly prominent in countries such as the UK, Ireland and New Zealand.

Online participation and rugby interaction also tends to spike during major tournaments, including the Six Nations and the World Cup (the 2019 iteration of which broke new ground in terms of audience participation and was viewed by a record of 857 million people across the globe).

During such peaks, you’re also likely to witness rugby have a higher presence on social media, but as a general rule the sport enjoys limited representation through channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Of course, major players and international rugby stars are prominent on social media, including former New Zealand captain and All Blacks legend Dan Carter and current world player of the year Pieter-Steph Du Toit.

He has well in excess of 2.5 million social followers across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, while he’s closely followed by superstars such as Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) and Bryan Habana (South Africa).

Outside of these global stars, however, social engagement levels are relatively low, while the same can also be applied at club level throughout the world.

In terms of sports betting and audience participation in rugby, it’s also fair to surmise that this remains surprisingly low.

While it can be hard to locate precise figures, the level of audience participation in rugby betting is far lower than sports such as horse racing, tennis, boxing and football across the globe, while it’s included in the ‘other’ category of disciplines with a participation rate of just 43.9%.

Once again, this trend is bucked during tournaments such as the World Cup, while the rising prominence of the aforementioned Premiership in England is also having an incremental impact on rugby betting and audience participation figures.

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