Rugby Union is now Britain's second most popular sport, according to MORI's latest SportsTracker. The research, for the financial services company Zurich, shows since England's World Cup win, the sport's popularity has risen from eighth place in January 2003, when just 18% of Britons said they had an interest in rugby, to second in December 2003 (along with swimming), when 27% of British adults expressed an interest in the sport. Football is still top of the field, capturing the interest of 45% of British adults.
The findings mean that 15.66 million adults are now interested in rugby union compared to 10.44 million adults prior to the World Cup -- a 50% increase.
Peter Hasler, head of sports research at MORI, says: "England's success at the World Cup provides rugby with a fantastic opportunity, and one which the Rugby Football Union is clearly keen to utilise and sustain through its IMPACT strategy. The trick will be ensuring that the current high levels of support for the England team are transmitted through to Zurich Premiership and clubs at grass roots level."
As expected, the greatest shift has been in England. Interest in rugby union has only increased marginally in both Wales and Scotland (by 38% and 15% respectively, each up two percent), while in England interest has increased from 17% to 28%.
While rugby union still appeals greatly to the older, white, middle class male, it has also become more popular among the sport's non-traditional groups. Interest in the sport has increased among women (10% to 18%), younger people (12% to 19% of people aged 15-34) and people from lower social groups (13% to 22% of C2DEs).
For MORI's SportsTracker, a nationally representative quota sample of 2,094 British adults aged 15+ was interviewed throughout Great Britain across 200 sampling points. Interviews were carried out using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing), face-to-face in respondents' homes between 4-11 December 2003. Data have been weighted to reflect the known national population profile.
For more information on the Rugby Football Union, please contact Dave Barton, 07736-517 610
The MORI SportsTracker is one of a range of special sports studies provided by the MORI Sports Team.
For further information on MORI SportsTracker contact Andy Martin at MORI (020-7347 3000).
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