The report claims that football is the number one sport in Wales

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale is the all-time top scorer for the Wales men’s team with 38 goals

Football has overtaken rugby as the number one sport in Wales, according to a new study presented to the Football Association of Wales (FAW).

The independent study claims that soccer is both the most popular and has more participants across the country than any other team game.

Around 47% of respondents to a Welsh survey said they followed football, compared to 45% for rugby.

The report also points out that around 40% of children in Wales play football.

This number is higher than any other form of sport or exercise.

However, only 35% rated the quality of the football facilities as good or better.

And Welsh football’s elite domestic league – the Cymru Premier – also fared poorly, with only half showing any awareness of the competition.

Still, the results will please the FAW, who have looked to bolster the game in Wales on the basis of success at international level as Rob Page’s men’s side are just a game away from their first World Cup in 64 years.

The research, conducted in April this year, was carried out by Nielsen, an intelligence company, as part of a development program by European football governing body Uefa.

One thousand nationally representative respondents of all ages from Wales – including non-sports fans – formed the basis of the results, which were welcomed by FAW chief executive Noel Mooney.

“Overall this report is very positive and I am incredibly pleased to see that the game we have been entrusted with is now the most popular sport in the country,” said Mooney.

The report claims that interest in football has increased since Wales reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, up four points from 43% and in line with a benchmark across the continent.

It suggests that rugby has also risen but is now lagging behind its rival sport – although the report notes it has a more positive image.

In terms of participation among adults, fitness training (24%) and swimming (19%) were more popular among respondents than football (17%) and rugby (6%).

However, of these participants, less than half of those who play football do so for a club, suggesting a trend in social and school football.

Turning to women’s football, the report says that interest in Wales in rugby is greater than football, although awareness of the women’s national team, still chasing their own World Cup qualification under Gemma Grainger, has been increasing since almost doubled in 2016.

Several other issues are examined in the report, including one in which the image of Welsh Rugby Union is given a more positive assessment than that of the FAW.

“This independent report is a testament to the hard work of FAW staff, area associations, leagues, clubs and volunteers across the country in raising awareness, interest and perception of our wonderful game,” added Mooney.

“Coupled with our strategic goals for Welsh football, this study gives us insights into where we can continue to grow and which areas we need to focus on to improve.”

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