Football is the largest spectator sport in the world, with a presence in most countries and a spectatorship of billions. Over 3.5 billion people watched the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia, a simply staggering statistic that no other sport or event can match. Known as “soccer” in many other English-speaking countries (an abbreviation of “association football”) football is the biggest sport here in the UK. The UK is considered by many to be the home of football as this is where the rules were first drawn-up. What’s more, proponents of the game, like the Scottish-born Thomas Donohoe, who introduced football to Brazil, helped to spread it far and wide. There were forms of the game played in ancient China and Greece and these did involve kicking a ball through a net of some kind, but there were many more differences than similarities.The Football Association (FA) was formed way back in 1863 and oversees the game in the UK. FIFA, which is tasked with overseeing the game on a global level, was founded just over 40 years later in 1904. The FIFA World Cup is the biggest event in the sport and is contested by international teams, but there are also continental competitions, including the European Championships, and the COPA America.
Football has been the UK’s dominant sport for over 150 years. Every month millions of citizens participate and tens of millions spectate, with the top-flight divisions in England and Scotland, as well as European cups like the Champions League, attracting the most spectators. It is a national sport, one of the few that can bring the streets to a standstill during major tournaments, and the one that creates the fiercest rivalries, from Celtic vs Rangers to Arsenal vs Tottenham, Liverpool vs Everton, and even England vs Scotland. This is a small nation, but it has produced some of the best players and the best teams in the history of the sport, from the Leeds, Liverpool, and Nottingham Forest teams of decades gone, to the Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea teams of the Premier League era. UK football is loved the world over for its intensity and its passion. UK football clubs compete at the highest level in European and international football and they serve as a platform for the best players to have ever kicked a ball. Cristiano Ronaldo, George Best, Paul Gascoigne, Thierry Henry, Eden Hazard—countless greats have called UK leagues their home over the years.
Manchester United are one of the most polarizing teams in the United Kingdom, helped in no small part to their dominance during the Premier League era. They have the largest fanbase in the UK and beyond, but they are also considered one of the closest rivals to teams like Newcastle United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal, not to mention their local rivals Manchester City. In addition to their large support, Manchester United are one of the most followed and wagered teams in the UK. It seems that UK football fans love to bet for them or against them, and this is especially true when the Red Devils line-up against their biggest rivals. In Scotland, Celtic are in a similar position, with a lot of support from their own fans and a lot of negativity elsewhere. Celtic have enjoyed just as much success as Manchester United, if not more so, and when they play rivals Rangers, a huge number of fans tune in. UK football fans also like to bet on La Liga, a league that matches the English Premier League for quality, consistency, and star potential. This is the home of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla; the home of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann, Luka Modric, and countless others.