Our British Secret Weapon on: Sports coverage on TV in Great Britain.

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Has everyone stateside recovered from March Madness yet?

Because I live in a household with three boys, March has been all about the college basketball tournament. This got me thinking about sports, and wondering what sports coverage on TV looks like in the UK. So I asked Jackie, our British Secret Weapon:

Question: Talk to us about sports on TV, Jackie–we’ve got March Madness here right now, which means many college basketball games are on our network TV channels. Are sporting events regularly shown on your BBC or basic channels? Or not?


The most popular sport in the UK is football (or soccer, as it is known in the US). Most people support their local team, or their nearest team in the Premier League, and will watch their matches every Saturday afternoon throughout the football season (August – May). Almost everyone in the country will watch an International game – especially during the World Cup.

Football used to be shown on BBC1, but recently Sky purchased the rights to many football games and so only those with a subscription to Sky sports can watch these matches. BBC1 show highlights from the Premier league every Saturday afternoon, but those wanting to watch the full match often head to the pub, where they can support their local team together. The atmosphere is often as good as at the stadium itself, but you must be careful to wear the right colour shirt when entering pubs during a football match, as football supporters are very loyal and don’t like to watch a match with those who support a different team!

The second most popular sport in the UK is rugby. There is less of a following for local teams, but the International sides play more regularly. The six nations championship (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales) is played annually and there is a friendly rivalry whenever the home countries play each other. Rugby matches are generally shown live on BBC1.

Many other sports are watched throughout the year – including Formula One, cricket, tennis at Wimbledon in June (when everyone likes to watch with a bowl of strawberries and cream!), and the Grand National (a big horse race in April for which many offices will do a sweepstake).

Since London held the Olympics in 2012 there has also been a growing interest in other sports, such as cycling, swimming and athletics. These are shown on a variety of channels, either live, or as a highlights show later.

Thanks, Jackie!

Rugby, who knew? And I don’t know about you, but I’m totally going to try and start a sweepstake for the Grand National horse race this year–sounds way more exciting to me than filling out endless basketball brackets–and the next time I see ANY tennis on the TV here I’m going to get a bowl of strawberries and cream to go with it!


  1. Many times I have had strawberries and cream with Wimbledon, my favorite tennis event. In recent years I haven’t even managed to watch. This year I vow to resurrect that rite.
    Watching at the pub–where do the kids fit into this?
    August through May–that’s a long season.

  2. Hi M.A.!
    Mmmmm strawberries and cream. Never had that tradition with Wimbledon but perhaps I will have to start!
    My understanding about British pubs is that they’re very family- and kid-friendly, everyone just goes along. We’ll have to ask Jackie if that is correct!
    August through May IS a long season–seems to me that’s about how long our NBA basketball season is. Endless! You’d think the athletes themselves would agitate for slightly shorter seasons, wouldn’t you? They must get tired.

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