Buckingham Palace with crowds on the Mall

Almost 30 years on from the launch of the Premier League in English football, we’ve seen huge changes to the game at the elite level in particular, driven by revenues flowing in from TV rights.  The sport’s authorities will be happy that interest in the game has grown over this time, and both TV viewers and match-goers have become more representative of the population at large.

More women are following the sport, and older adults are more engaged.  But in parallel with this modernisation some things seem to have disappeared – whatever happened to the football pools?

TGI data from 2019 reported 19.7 million adults as saying they watch football on TV, up significantly from 14.6 million in 1992.  That may not be a surprise given the volume of football broadcast, but 60% of this growth has comes from women, the number of whom expressing their interest has almost doubled to 6.9 million.  While that doesn’t make for an even gender split, the female audience is now over a third of the total rather than a quarter.

Watching football chart 1992 to 2019Source: Kantar TGI

The demographic profile of those going to watch lives games has shifted: there are more women, more over 55s and fewer 15-34s.  In all, 5.8 million say they have paid to watch a football match during the last 12 months – little changed from 1992.  But back then 900,000 women reported doing so, and now it’s 1.2 million.  That’s still a small proportion – just 20% of the total – but it is at least a move in a healthy direction. 

15-34s are still most likely to have the attendance habit, but from being 54% of match-goers in 1992 they are now 37%.  The big growth has been among over 55s, who now make up 28% of paying customers, compared to 16% in 1992.  They may be better able to afford admission prices than younger fans, and probably find stadiums more welcoming nowadays.  Of course, many of today’s over 55s were in their twenties or thirties in 1992 and may have stuck with the game over the years.

Source: Kantar TGI

Within football grounds, more adults from the ABC1 social grades are found now.  Some of this change is due to the direction in which the overall population has moved.  ABs now make up 55% of the population and 60% of match-goers; in 1992 they were 42% of both.  For them, just as for the over 55s, greater affluence and a better match experience is a winning combination.

The football pools are a much smaller part of the football world than they once were.  In the late 1960s, TGI reported 19 million people as ‘doing the pools’: that was 47% of the adult population.  This had fallen to 13 million or 28% by 1992, and now stands at just 1.6 million or 3%.  The National Lottery largely replaced it as a weekly flutter of course, and 6.4 million now bet specifically on football.  Watford’s half-back from the 1930s, Arthur Woodward, benefitted from a pools win in later life and was able to live comfortably from the proceeds.  Such stories are now associated with the EuroMillions.

All in all, the increased interest levels among women and the greater engagement of older adults are positive indicators for football as a sport.  Conversely lower social groups have been drifting away, and the football authorities might do well to think about ways of maintaining the interest of younger adults.  And with many clubs moving with the times and appointing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officers, we can expect more initiatives directed at attracting more supporters from minorities which have also been under-represented in our football stadiums.


TGI (Target Group Index) is a continuous survey which has been carried out in Great Britain since 1969, based on 25,000 adults per annum, who provide information on their use of all major products, brands and services.  Media exposure, attitudinal and demographic data are also included.  Kantar, who own and operate the TGI (Target Group Index) have made major donations of data to AMSR.  To explore the TGI archive within AMSR, click here.

Contributed by Geoff Wicken
Date posted: 27th June 2021


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