Manchester has ranked as the UK’s Greatest Sporting City for 2018, according to research from ESPN and the University of Bath.
The accolade for the city comes after ESPN collaborated with the University of Bath on the fourth annual research project to discover the best place in the country to be a sports fan.
The full results can be seen online at ESPN.co.uk and on the ESPN app.
Manchester topped the ranking after scoring highly in many of the 12 factors that fans identified as key to a great sporting city. The city was the inaugural winner of ESPN’s Greatest Sporting City in 2015 and hasn’t dropped below second since – finishing behind Leicester in 2016 and Liverpool in 2017. The city ranked strongly in several key factors, including Local Talent (2nd) Community (6th), Social (9th), Success (1st), and History (4th).
Behind Manchester, last year’s winner Liverpool drops to second place, but still ranked top for the Choice factor thanks to the range of professional teams available to watch in the city, while also performing well in categories such as Venues and Transport.
Blackburn has made the biggest ever move up the rankings, jumping 25 places from 33rd to eighth, as the city ranked first for Matchday Atmosphere, driven by fan enthusiasm for Blackburn Rovers’ promotion from League 1 to the Championship.
Perennial bottom place dweller Blackpool has moved from 49th place for the first time, moving up nine spots to 40th. The other North West cities on the list are Wigan, which placed 26th, Preston in 28th, and Bolton in 33rd.
ESPN also divided the research into individual sports to reveal the best places to be a fan of football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league. Liverpool claims the title of best city to be a football fan for the second year running, with Leeds maintaining its position as the best city for both cricket and rugby league fans, and Bath maintaining its status as the best city for Rugby Union fans.
The national ranking sees Edinburgh move seven places up to its highest ever Greatest Sporting Cities ranking of third. Meanwhile London drops out of the top three moving one place down to its lowest ranking of fourth. The top five is completed by Leeds, which finished fourth in 2017, and had two consecutive fifth placings in 2015 and 2016. North West cities contribute to northern dominance of the list, with four of the top five, and eight northern cities listed in the top ten.
Sheffield, which last year finished fifth, is the biggest faller in the rankings, dropping 24 places to 29th. Neighbouring Doncaster jumps 17 places to join the top 10 of ESPN’s Greatest Sporting Cities for the first time.
As part of the research, ESPN asked fans to rank 12 factors that help make up a great sporting city. Those factors were then each given respective weightings to apply to each city’s results. This year, fans ranked Value for Money as the most important factor, with 19 percent of fans saying it was the most important factor – Milton Keynes topped the ranking in this factor for 2018. The second ranked factor was Matchday Atmosphere, which 18 percent of fans said was the most important – Blackburn was ranked as the best. Club Success for a city’s professional teams received 14 percent of fan votes and was unsurprisingly topped by Manchester this year.
Full results and methodological details for the research, conducted in collaboration with the University Bath, will be available on ESPN.co.uk.
Commenting on the research, Assistant Professor Thomas Curran, University of Bath, said: “Now we’re in the fourth year of the research some interesting trends are starting to emerge. The impressive performance of Blackburn, and Swansea’s fall to the bottom of the list, show how the performance of a city’s football teams impacts the mood of fans. Manchester is blessed with two of the biggest clubs not just in the UK, but the whole of Europe, so City and United’s strong performances last season have helped take them back to the top spot.
Steven Saunders, Senior Editor of ESPN.co.uk, said: “Manchester’s consistency has been impressive over the years. It has never dropped out of the top two, and now returns to first place in the fourth year. The success of the city’s football clubs has driven them back to the top – with Man City winning the League Cup and the Premier League, and Man United finishing second and reaching the FA Cup final. Manchester’s top score for success, combined with strong scores in important factors such as Local Talent, Community and History makes them worthy winners.”
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said: “The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “We are pleased to receive this confirmation from ESPN of Manchester’s status as the UK’s greatest sporting city. We are not just a power in professional and elite sport like football and cycling – but also in building participation right down to the grassroots.
“For our clubs at the top to succeed, there needs to a dedicated hard core of volunteers from across Greater Manchester who are willing to give up their evenings and weekends to create an environment for young people to thrive. Whether it is junior football, community rugby, amateur boxing or village cricket, none of it is possible without a strong network of coaches and parents.
“We are proud of our professional clubs but for the people across the region who are passionate about junior and amateur sport they should take immense pride in Manchester being named the UK’s greatest sporting city.”
When asked for his thoughts on what makes Manchester such a great sporting city, Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera said: “First of all for the history of this club, I think that makes the city very very interesting, very attractive. Second because the last two top positions in the league are two teams from Manchester, also because two of the best managers in the world are in Manchester. Our stadium is amazing, everyone wants to play in our stadium, everyone wants to visit our stadium, I have a lot of friends asking me for the Manchester United tour every week. The rivalry between the two teams in the town, a lot of things, I cannot tell you just one answer.”