Surprising results from rugby fan statistics


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    There are more rugby union fans in China, Brazil, India and the US than there are people in Australia and New Zealand combined.

    One in three of the world’s 800 million rugby union followers are Indian, Chinese, American or Brazilian, according to World Rugby’s largest fan surveys released on Tuesday.

    There are 33 million fans in the US, with national team the Eagles having won two Olympic gold medals and qualified for all but one Rugby World Cup, but China has the same number of fans even though their world No.66 ranked national team are yet to play in a major tournament.

    India, with a national side far from even contending a regional rugby title, has 25 million fans, as many as Australia’s entire population.

    The top 10 rugby fan nations are now the US, China, India, France, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Italy and Argentina.

    Asia, North America, South America and Africa have the fastest-growing fanbases with numbers in Brazil, China, India, Mexico and USA rising by 50 per cent since 2013.

    New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales cannot compete with the sheer numbers, but their fans arguably make up for that with passion.

    The survey, conducted by Nielson Sports, shows the average age of rugby fans has fallen two years to 36, indicating the code is successfully attracting younger audiences.

    Also, more than one in three fans are now women or girls in both traditional rugby nations and the emerging markets.

    World Rugby chief executive officer Brett Gosper says the survey shows the broadening global appeal of the sport after the recent addition of a sevens competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

    “World Rugby is committed to ensuring a thriving, growing, inclusive game that is accessible to all and 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,” he said at the Rugby World Cup 2019 trophy tour in Delhi on Wednesday.

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

    Rugby fans
    * 800 million rugby followers worldwide

    * 338 million consider themselves fans

    * Over one in three are female

    * Top 10 rugby fan nations doesn’t include Australia, New Zealand or England

    * USA, China, India, Mexico, Brazil and Japan have the fastest growing fanbases.

    © AAP 2018
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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 5:26am
      The Neutral View From Sweden said | August 7th 2018 @ 5:26am | ! Report

      Even the late Dr. Goebbels would have been proud of how World Rugby is spinning this.

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 5:44am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | August 7th 2018 @ 5:44am | ! Report

      Might be time to play more ‘away’ games in the US, Brazil and Asia?

      • August 7th 2018 @ 8:14am
        Selector said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report


        Note: This below statement is purely based off a conversation with a mate, that has no evidence backing it up.

        Apparently the US Forces main sport is Rugby Union. It is designed for all different body types, has less concussion injuries than NFL, but still maintains fitness and contact skills.

        I would love to see the amount of research that they did into this.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 7th 2018 @ 10:57am
          piru said | August 7th 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          Selector, in my limited contact with American Servicemen (through gridiron) I have heard similar, that Rugby, being easier to setup and play (ie no need for gear and exterior infrastructure like down markers etc) and better for general cardio is very popular.

          They also play a fair bit of flag american football, but this is non contact

          • August 7th 2018 @ 11:02am
            Selector said | August 7th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

            Thanks Piru

            Nice it is good to hear! I personally believe that the social level culture for Rugby Union is fantastic for camaraderie too.

            I really hope it does develop in the Americas, as I believe it is the place which can take the game to the next international level.

            • August 7th 2018 @ 11:24am
              Ben said | August 7th 2018 @ 11:24am | ! Report

              Selector..yes you are correct in that. Esp the Marine Corp who have incorporated rugby for those reasons. The Marines now compete in the annual Royal NZ Navy, Royal Aus Navy, Royal Navy rugby tournament.
              The US military arent the only ones incorporating rugby into their culture as believe it or not so are the Indian Army.

        • August 7th 2018 @ 2:33pm
          Sheikh said | August 7th 2018 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

          Selector, another of the reasons I’ve heard quoted about why the US armed forces have started playing rugby is that it encourages decision making on-field, under pressure, whereas gridiron is more about following orders given before each play.

          Following orders is okay for the grunts, but the officers, and in modern militaries even individual servicemen, have to make split-second decisions, thinking on their feet. Rugby is seen as a good training ground to encourage this.

      • August 7th 2018 @ 6:32pm
        Rhys Bosley said | August 7th 2018 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

        I reckon when the Chinese get into playing rugby professionally, they will do very well. Some of the Northern Chinese ethnic groups breed really tall, strapping lads who just need to be taught the game to be competitive.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 7th 2018 @ 6:40pm
          piru said | August 7th 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

          Remember Yao Ming?

          Try beating him to a high ball

    • August 7th 2018 @ 6:58am
      Fionn said | August 7th 2018 @ 6:58am | ! Report

      I am sceptical of stats that say Italy has more rugby fans than England.

      • Roar Guru

        August 8th 2018 @ 5:41pm
        Train Without A Station said | August 8th 2018 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

        I’m sceptical of a survey that says 3/8 of people that follow rugby are fans…

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 8:45am
      taylorman said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      What can I say, the greatest game of all…good to see common sense prevailing 🙂

    • Roar Rookie

      August 7th 2018 @ 11:02am
      piru said | August 7th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      Now if only someone had the foresight to set up some kind of pro comp in the Asia/Indo/Pacific region…

      • August 8th 2018 @ 8:16am
        Ex force fan said | August 8th 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report

        Interesting that World Rugby through this research is helping to put pressure on RA not to keep on getting in the way of WSR. The fans are there, just need to find a way to bring the product to the fans. It is a no brainer if you can see the bigger picture.

        • August 8th 2018 @ 11:09am
          Working Class Rugger said | August 8th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

          The base interest is there. I wouldn’t go as far as to call them fans. These figures have been derived from respondents that either replied as being either ‘very interested’ or ‘interested’ in the sport. I take that as them largely being interested in watching if it’s on TV but not necessarily actively supporting it.

          I’m not trying to rain on the WSR parade here. I actually see this base interest as a huge positive for the competition as it suggests that there is the necessary goodwill toward the game in the region in order for the competition to look to grow and convert this interest into active support. But I think it’s wise to look at these figures with a bit more reason and rationality.

          • Roar Rookie

            August 8th 2018 @ 11:21am
            piru said | August 8th 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

            it’s at least a start WCR

            if we can convert 1 in 5 into fans, that’s still a lot of fans!

    • August 8th 2018 @ 7:14pm
      Working Class Rugger said | August 8th 2018 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

      I agree. Like I said it at least demonstrates a level of goodwill toward the game that can certainly be built on. I’d actually be a little disappointed if they weren’t able to convert 2 in 5.

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