page was inspired by an unpleasant individual by the name of pa, who posted
a message on our Team Handball Message Board, which read, "Team Handball
isn't the second most popular sport in the world. It truly sucks."
This post was in response to a statement on our site attesting to the
popularity of Team Handball worldwide. In response to such an accusation,
we quickly searched the web for statistics about the popularity of team
handball, and made an interesting discovery. In addition to Team
Handball, at least a dozen other sports had web sites which laid claim
to the title of second most popular sport in the world.
this couldn't be true. Somebody had to be truly second, and the
rest must be wrong! We set out on a quest to find the truth.
First, we found every site on the web that made this bold statement, and
sent an e-mail to every one, asking what their sources were, and what
statistical information they based their claim on. We received numerous
replies, all to the extent of "I heard it somewhere", or "I've always
been told that", or "I saw it on another website". Not one
webmaster could give us a shred of evidence that his/her claim was true.
not to be distraught, we asked the International Federations of each sport
which was reputed to be the world's most or second-most popular just how
many people were estimated to play their sport worldwide.
I've seen statistics based on most watched, or most money made, or most
registered players, or most competition entries, but these all seem flawed.
We figure that participation is the best measure available of popularity,
since the majority of the world doesn't have television, or money to attend
sporting events. The vast majority of people who play various
sports don't register for teams, or compete in competitions either, such
as in Basketball, Soccer, or Tennis, where many more people play just
pickup games or recreationally.
results are shown below. Estimates are directly from the International
Sports Federations themselves. The Number of Affiliated National
Federations comes from the International Olympic Committee. Only
the sports who laid claim to the title of most or second-most popular
were included in the study. I left out Auto Racing/F1, who for obvious
reasons won't even be comparable in participation numbers to the rest
of the sports involved. For your inormation, though, the FIA has
119 affiliated national federations.
other interesting facts as stated by the federations are as follows:
One Racing has the largest television viewing audience in the world
with just the Formula One championship bringing in 40 billion viewers
annually. Considering there are only 6 Billion people in the world,
less than half with television sets, and only a fraction of those caring
about Formula One racing, that's quite a few... When questioned,
the FIA did not respond.
claims over 400 million people play basketball in the world, or one
in every twelve men, women, and children, and senior citizens (over
500 million worldwide). This seems a little odd... When
questioned, FIBA did not respond. The Jr. NBA states that they
feel that the number is "a little high".
claims nearly 1billion people play volleyball in the world. One
out of every six people. That's really interesting... When
questioned, they backed off that statement to say that there are 33
million registered players, but that there are many more than that who
are recreational players (obviously, but not 1 billion...). They
also stated that there are definitely not four times the amount of volleyball
players as soccer players in the world, which basically refuted their