Football’s status as the world’s biggest sport is uncontested. According to the World Football Report 2018 by Nielsen, 43% of people are interested in football among 18 markets across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, which is around 736 million fan-base.
However, the popularity of football is no more limited to the European nations and is gradually making inroads into countries such as India, China, Mexico and USA.
Interestingly, India has perhaps emerged as a ‘sleeping giant’ when it comes to increase in number of football followers as it is not generally considered a football market. In India, cricket dominates when it comes to following a sport.
In cricket-crazy India, football is a relatively young and aspirational sport in India and has always been popular only in some pockets such as West Bengal, Northeastern states and even Goa, has started to spread its wings across India.
According to the Nielson’s survey, 45 percent of India’s urban population is interested in football, an increase from 30 percent in 2013. It has the highest reach among 16-24 years old with 53 percent of adults in the age group are interested in football. Also, football has more male fans in India with 57 percent of them follow football as compared to 31 percent among females.
The survey also points out that the penetration off football in India also differs among those in low, medium or high-income bands. The reach is highest in the low-income group, at 52 percent, but the high-income group is also not far behind on 47 percent, and the middle-income group is the lowest at 41 percent.
Indian Super League (ISL), a nationwide professional football league launched in 2013 has been a significant growth driver for the increase in popularity in India, the report said.
First Published: IST