In Brief

Rugby union global fan base grows by 24% since 2013

World Rugby study reveals increase in followers and participation

A study published by rugby union’s governing body World Rugby has revealed that the sport’s global fan base has increased by 24% in the past five years.  

Research conducted across 88 markets by Nielsen Sports shows “significant increases in rugby interest driven by emerging markets” after rugby sevens was included at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

According to the study the sport has 793m fans globally, the biggest growth markets include India, China, the USA and Brazil and 36% of global fans are women or girls.

The study paints a positive picture for the sport says World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont. While World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper adds: “This research, which demonstrates significant fan-growth, reflects a sport that is effective in attracting a new, younger audience in non-traditional rugby nations, despite huge competition for eyeballs and attention.

“The research also demonstrates that rugby has significant growth potential in both traditional and non-traditional markets and is increasingly attracting a younger audience. We will use the insight to guide our decision-making and approach to growing fans and participants in rugby globally.”

This year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco attracted 100,000 spectators while next year’s Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan - a nation with 14 million fans.

In numbers: the growth of rugby union
  • 24%: global fan base increase since 2013 
  • 9.1m: men, women and children who regularly play 
  • 793m: people following rugby globally 
  • 338m: people who consider themselves fans 
  • 50%: rise since 2013 in the fan base in the emerging markets - Brazil, China, India, Mexico and USA 
  • 112.5m: fan base in Asia 
  • 52.8m: fan base in North America 
  • 38.2m: fan base in South America 
  • 32.7m: fan base in Africa 
  • 33m: fans in China and the USA 
  • 25m: fans in India 
  • 20m: fans in France 
  • 14m: fans in Japan, host nation of the 2019 Rugby World Cup 
  • 100,000: attendance at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco 
  • 36: average age of a rugby fan 
  • 36%: of fans globally are women or girls

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