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Major sports including association football, rugby football, cricket, tennis and golf originated in the United Kingdom. A 2006 poll found that football is the most popular sport in the United Kingdom.[201]

Internationally, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland compete separately in most team sports, as well as at the Commonwealth Games, and in sporting contexts the four can be referred to collectively as the Home Nations. There are national sports teams representing the United Kingdom, including Great Britain national basketball team and Great Britain at the Olympics.


England's new Wembley Stadium. It is the most expensive stadium ever built.[202]

Hampden Park, Glasgow - Scotland's national football stadium.

Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, national stadium of Wales

Each of the Home Nations has their own Football Association, national team and league system, though a few clubs play outside their country's respective systems for a variety of historical and logistical reasons. Football was developed in the UK and is comfortably the most popular sport.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries in international competition and, as a consequence, the UK does not compete as a single team in football events at the Olympic Games. There are proposals to have a UK team take part in the 2012 Summer Olympics but the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations have declined to participate, fearing that it would undermine their independent status - a fear confirmed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.[203] England has been the most successful of the home nations, winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, although there has historically been a close-fought rivalry between England and Scotland.

The English football league system includes hundreds of inter-linked leagues, consisting of thousands of divisions. The Premiership at the top, is the most-watched football league in the world[204] and is particularly popular in Asia.[205] Below this, The Football League has three divisions and then the Football Conference has a national division and two feeder regional leagues. Thereafter the structure becomes increasing regional. England is home to world-renowned football clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal. English teams have been successful in European Competitions including some who have become European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners: Liverpool (five times), Manchester United (three times), Nottingham Forest (twice) and Aston Villa. More clubs from England have won the European Cup than any other country (four compared to three from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands). Moreover, England ranks second in the all time list of European club trophies won with 35, one behind Italy's 36. The European Cup competition itself came about as the result of the success of another English club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, against top European sides[206] in the 1950s. The 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium is England's principal sporting stadium.

The Scottish football league system has two national leagues: the Scottish Premier League, the top division of play, and the Scottish Football League, which has three divisions. Below this, but not connected to the national leagues, are three regional leagues; the Highland Football League, the East of Scotland Football League and the South of Scotland Football League. One English club, Berwick Rangers, plays in the Scottish system. Scotland is home to two world-renowned football clubs in the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers. Scottish teams that have been successful in European Competitions include Celtic (European Cup in 1967), Rangers (European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972) and Aberdeen (European Cup Winners' Cup and European Super Cup in 1983). Celtic were the first British club to win the European Cup.

The Welsh football league system includes the Welsh Premier League and regional leagues. Welsh Premiership club The New Saints play their home matches on the English side of the border in Oswestry. The Welsh clubs of Cardiff City F.C., Colwyn Bay F.C., Merthyr Tydfil F.C., Newport County A.F.C., Swansea City A.F.C. and Wrexham F.C. play in the English system. Cardiff's 76,250 seater Millennium Stadium is the principal sporting stadium of Wales.

The Northern Ireland football league system includes the IFA Premiership. One Northern Irish club, Derry City, play their football outside of the UK in the Republic of Ireland football league system.

Other sports

The Wimbledon Championships, a Grand Slam tournament, is held in Wimbledon, London every June/July.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, generally regarded as the world's "Home of Golf".

Rugby union is organised on a separate basis for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with each having a league system and an international team, though every four years a British and Irish Lions team tours Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, composed of players selected from all the Home nations. While England has won the Rugby Union World Cup, in 2003, Wales has achieved a best of third place and Scotland a best of fourth place. Ireland has not progressed beyond the quarter finals. Rugby league originates from and is generally played in the Northern England and a single 'Great Britain' team had competed in the Rugby League World Cup but this will change in 2008 when England, Scotland and Ireland will compete as separate nations.[207]

Cricket was invented in England and the England cricket team, controlled by the England and Wales Cricket Board,[208] is the only national team in the UK with Test status. Team members are drawn from the main county sides, and include both English and Welsh players. Cricket is distinct from Football and Rugby where Wales and England field separate national teams. Irish and Scottish players have played for England because neither Scotland nor Ireland have Test status and have only recently started to play in One Day Internationals. Scotland, England (and Wales), and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) have competed at the Cricket World Cup, with England reaching the Final three times. There is a professional league championship in which clubs representing 17 English counties and 1 Welsh county compete.

Snooker is also one of Great Britain's sporting exports. A game similar to billiards, the world championships are held annually in Sheffield. The sport continues to expand worldwide, with huge growth in China.

The game of tennis first originated from the City of Birmingham between 1859 and 1865. The Championships, Wimbledon are international tennis events held in Wimbledon in south London every summer and are regarded as the most prestigious event of the global tennis calendar.

Thoroughbred racing is popular throughout the UK. It originated under Charles II of England as the "Sport of Kings" and is a royal pastime to this day. World-famous horse races include the Grand National, the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot. The town of Newmarket is considered the centre of English racing, largely due to the famous Newmarket Racecourse.

The UK has proved successful in the international sporting arena in rowing. It is widely considered that the sport's most successful rower is Steve Redgrave who won five gold medals and one bronze medal at five consecutive Olympic Games, as well as numerous wins at the World Rowing Championships and Henley Royal Regatta.

Golf is the sixth most popular sport, by participation, in the UK and the The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, in Scotland, is the sport's home course.[209]

Shinty (or camanachd) is popular in the Scottish Highlands, sometimes attracting crowds numbering thousands in the most sparsely populated region of the UK, especially to watch the final of its premier tournament, the Camanachd Cup.[210]

The UK is closely associated with motorsport. Many teams and drivers in Formula One (F1) are based in the UK and drivers from Britain have won more world titles than any other country. The country hosts legs of the F1 and World Rally Championship and has its own touring car racing championship, the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). The British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone each July.

Dancesport or competitive Ballroom dancing has its origins in the UK when popular dancing at the time was codified by British dance schools from the 1920s onwards. For example, the Slow Waltz is still known as the English Waltz which is now as distinct from its original roots as its name, the Viennese Waltz. The UK remains a major centre for the sport and Ballroom dancing in general with the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool being a popular venue for major competitions.

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