While some sports appear to have everlasting popularity, authorities are continually seeking new ways to bring the spectacle to a wider audience.

Money is frequently the main source of motivation. If clubs generate more income overseas, there is more money to invest in improving fortunes domestically. If sports can boast a bigger reach, bigger television and sponsorship deals will follow.

Whether by adjusting old rules or taking events to different places, some of the world's most popular sports have sought ways to break new ground.


A Game Abroad:

For many sports, the most logical method to generate support and exposure is taking a domestic fixture overseas.

While teams of all sports may go on expansive pre-season tours or play friendly games in neutral locations, competitive fixtures are far more effective in retaining the high stakes that make sport so interesting.

The NFL has recognised this to great effect, with several league games played at Wembley in London throughout the past decade.

Research from the NFL in 2018 revealed that nearly four million Britons identified as passionate fans of the sport, double the figure of six years previously.

In 2018, over 80,000 people flocked to each of three NFL matches at Wembley, with the three-week run rumoured to be laying the foundations for a London-based franchise to enter the league in the next few years.

Watching the NFL in person has created American football fans in the UK who may have otherwise never realised their interest in the sport, which is why betting sites give British punters more options than ever on NFL matches.

The Premier League once mooted the possibility of hosting matches overseas, adding an extra fixture for all 20 sides to create a 39-game season. Games would have been played across several continents, but fans and clubs rebelled at the logistical nightmare of it all.

This argument will likely resurface in the next few years. If the NFL can successfully integrate a London-based side as the first move in global expansion, the Premier League may take similar steps to cash in on worldwide demand.

NOT Born In The USA:

Rugby and cricket are both dominated by a relatively small pool of nations, which has made the expansion into new territories a difficult process. The list of nations represented at the 2019 Cricket World Cup reveals the comparatively narrow appeal of the sport.

One European (hosts England), one African (South Africa) and one North American side (Windies) shown the limitations in cricket’s expansion outside of Asia and Oceania.

Conversely, rugby has found it difficult to tackle a lack of support in Asia. The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be hosted by Japan, which could prove crucial in enthusing a new generation of Asians.

However, Japan are Asia’s sole representative at the World Cup. Eight Rugby World Cups have only produced five different finalists. This is why rugby has largely been unable to break new ground, notably in the United States.

Rugby’s similarity with American football has diminished the appetite for a new contact sport, while the USA national team have won just three out of 22 World Cup matches in their history.

However, rugby in the US is beginning to push back against these factors. The return of rugby to the Summer Olympics calendar in 2016 boosted global audiences, while rugby is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the US.

Hosting the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens did the sport’s popularity no harm.

Cricket could do with a similar boost, with the sport overshadowed by baseball in the US. The International Cricket Council (ICC) have stated their ambition to make cricket the world’s most popular sport.

For that to come remotely close to happening, the ICC will need to establish an audience in the US because of the American population size and financial strength.

Expat communities in the US will be vital in introducing cricket to more Americans, but governing bodies will need to be more proactive if they want to end perceptions of cricket as an archaic sport competed by few nations.

For example, the UK has accommodated five out of 12 Cricket World Cups. Cricket will need to travel further afield if it is to increase its audience.

A Game For The Next Generation:

Amid suggestions from some quarters that Grand Slam tennis matches were too long for modern audiences, the ATP put a new spin on the Next Generation ATP Finals.

The continued appetite for Grand Slam tennis and criticism from Next Gen players suggests these changes may be ineffective in reaching new markets. The Next Gen Finals trialled a series of tennis rules that aimed to add some speed and pizzazz to the game. 

Next Gen players are those on the ATP Tour aged 21 or under. The creation of the Next Gen Finals is partly the result of a need to establish new stars when the likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic finally stop heading the tennis betting markets.

This combination of Next Gen players with some specific rules has made the Finals a unique viewing experience in the past two years.

As with a Grand Slam, matches are played to best of five sets. However, these sets are won by the first to four games, rather than the traditional six.

The removal of ad-scoring and lets, plus the addition of shot clocks, aimed to make matches a more efficient and exciting affair. Only time will tell if these changes are effective in bringing a new audience to tennis.

The proof will be if Grand Slams adopt any of these rules designed for younger players and fans.

A Tale Of Many Cities:

It is remarkable to think that you could create an acca on a bet calculator featuring six sides owned by the City Football Group, represented across five continents.

Manchester City are the flagship club, with the CFC’s first two acquisitions acting as an extension of City. New York City FC became the 20th side in MLS, while the CFC took the heart out of Melbourne Heart to add their own suffix.

Melbourne City and NYCFC both play in the light blue of their English parent, while the CFC’s financial power has brought the star names.

Melbourne’s captains have included Australian legend Harry Kewell and Brazilian striker Fred, while NYCFC’s first skipper was legendary forward David Villa.

The USA and Australia are both nations that have become more appreciative of football in recent years, with City’s presence in two English-speaking nations easy to develop.

The CFC’s expansion hasn’t stopped there; Japan’s Yokohama Marinos, Uruguay’s Club Atletico Torque and Spain’s Girona have all attracted the investment of the CFC. There are two principal reasons for such vigorous expansion.

Links with clubs across continents gives Manchester City a better chance of unearthing and acquiring the world’s best new talent. Also, local fans of these clubs will be more likely to adopt Manchester City as their Premier League favourite.

No matter how popular a sport or a club gets, there will always be a need to search for fans in unfamiliar places. The sports that evolve are those that will remain relevant, but those which are unable to adapt may find their popularity on the decline.


The 888sport blog, based at 888 Towers in the heart of London, employs an army of betting and tipping experts for your daily punting pleasure, as well as an irreverent, and occasionally opinionated, look at the absolute madness that is the world of sport.