Sport in Europe tends to be highly organized with many sports having professional leagues. The origins of many of the world's most popular sports today lie in the codification of many traditional games, especially in the United Kingdom. However, a paradoxical feature of European sport is the extent to which local, regional and national variations continue to exist, and even in some instances to predominate.[1]

Football is by far the most popular sport in Europe. This picture shows Camp Nou in Barcelona before the 2023 renovation works started.

Main events


Region events


Team sports


Association football

The Premier League.

Association football is the most popular sport in almost all countries of Europe. European national teams have won 12 of 22 editions of the FIFA World Cup. Italy and Germany have won four titles each, followed by France with two titles and England and Spain, which each won the World Cup once. UEFA, the governing body for European football, has hosted the UEFA European Championship since 1960, and the UEFA Women's Championship since 1984.

The most popular and successful football leagues are the Big Five: the English Premier League; the Spanish La Liga; the German Bundesliga; the Italian Serie A; and the French Ligue 1.[2][3] Other main football leagues on the continent include the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the Dutch Eredivisie, the Russian Premier League and the Turkish Süper Lig. The top clubs in each league play the UEFA Champions League, while lower-ranked clubs compete in UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Europa Conference League.

As of 2024, the top 10 most popular sports clubs on social media are all football clubs from Europe:[4]

Rank Club Country Followers
1 Real Madrid CF Spain 360.5 million
2 FC Barcelona Spain 318.8 million
3 Manchester United F.C. United Kingdom 207 million
4 Paris Saint-Germain F.C. France 163 million
5 Juventus FC Italy 147.4 million
6 Manchester City F.C. United Kingdom 139.7 million
7 Chelsea F.C. United Kingdom 136.7 million
8 Liverpool F.C. United Kingdom 131.6 million
9 FC Bayern Munich Germany 126.5 million
10 Arsenal F.C. United Kingdom 99.2 million


The Italian Basketball Cup.

Basketball originated in America. It was invented in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts. In Europe, basketball is the second most popular team sport in many countries, including Greece, Serbia, Turkey and Spain.[citation needed] In Lithuania, it is the national sport. It is also very popular in Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and all of the ex-Yugoslavia countries.

The EuroBasket is the main European basketball competition for men's national teams, first held in 1935. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have won the most titles, with Spain claiming three championships since the late 2000s.

The EuroLeague is the most important club basketball competition in Europe. it was founded as the FIBA European Champions Cup in 1958, but is organised by the Euroleague Basketball association since 2000. It is, globally, the second most popular basketball club competition, after the NBA.


A handball game in progress at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany.

Handball is played professionally in many European countries. The European Handball Federation organises continental competitions for men's and women's. European teams have dominated the IHF World Men's Handball Championship and have also won most editions of the IHF World Women's Handball Championship. Notable men's teams include France, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Croatia, Germany, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Iceland, Hungary, Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, Austria, Portugal and North Macedonia.

The EHF Champions League is the most important handball club competition for men's teams in Europe and involves the leading teams from the top European nations, i n the 21/22 season, it experienced a record viewership of 1.1 billion people across all streaming platforms around the world. While the 2024 European Championship exceeded the number of spectators in the arena of even 1 million people.


Lord's Cricket Ground is known as the "Home of Cricket".

Cricket is a popular summer sport in the United Kingdom and has been exported to other parts of the former British Empire. Cricket has its origins in south east Britain. It is popular throughout England and Wales, and parts of the Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland. Cricket is also popular in other areas and also played in Northwest Europe.

The England cricket team and Ireland cricket team are the only European teams with Test status. England's main rival is Australia, and they play each other in The Ashes series. England won the Cricket World Cup in 2019 and the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010.

Ireland has recently received Test status in 2017. Ireland traditionally rivalled Scotland, and thereafter the Netherlands before Ireland gained full test status, while more latterly have added ongoing rivalries with Afghanistan who rose to test status with them, Zimbabwe, Pakistan (who they first hosted for test cricket) and the West Indies.

Field hockey

The semi-final between Germany and Spain in the 2006 Hockey World Cup.

Field hockey is from England and is one of the most popular sports in Western Europe, The Netherlands and Germany have been champions in both world cups, Belgium has also been champion in the men's tournament, Germany is the most recent champion in Men's Hockey World Cup and The Netherlands is the most recent champion in Women's Hockey World Cup.

In the Olympics, Great Britain, The Netherlands and Germany have been champions in both tournaments, Spain has been the winner in the 1992 Women's tournament, Belgium is the most recent winner in the Men's tournament and The Netherlands is the most recent winner in the Women's tournament.

Ice hockey

The Austrian Hockey League.

Ice hockey is the most popular or one of the most popular sports in many European nations, including Czechia, Switzerland, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Latvia, Belarus, and northern and central Europe, where it rivals association football in popularity. It is also popular at a professional level in Germany, Norway, Austria, most of Western Europe and isolated parts of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

The Kontinental Hockey League originated from Russia but currently features teams from eight other countries. The Austrian Hockey League, Czech Extraliga, Deutsche Eishockey Liga, SM-Liiga, National League A and Swedish Hockey League are other professional leagues, whose top teams meet at the Champions Hockey League.

The Ice Hockey European Championships for national teams was played from 1910 to 1932. National teams currently play the Ice Hockey World Championships, where Russia / Soviet Union have claimed a combined 27 titles, the Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia 12 and Sweden 11.

Rugby union

The European Rugby Cup.

Rugby union is popular in France (especially the south), England, Wales, Scotland (especially the main cities and Borders), Ireland, Italy and Georgia. The game is also relatively popular in Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Russia, Poland, Moldova, Andorra and Romania, as it is at a professional level in these countries. Rugby is regarded as the national sport of Wales and Georgia, and is the strongest professional team sport in Ireland.

Europe's main competition for national teams is the Six Nations Championship, first held in 1883 as the Home Nations Championship. The other European national teams play at the Rugby Europe International Championships. The England national team is the only European team to have won the Rugby World Cup, whereas France was runner-up three times and Wales and Scotland reached the semifinals once.

The three main domestic rugby union competitions are the fully professional Premiership (England), Top 14 (France) and United Rugby Championship (URC)(Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa). The European Rugby Champions Cup is the premier continental championship, with clubs qualifying from the three professional competitions. South African teams fully compete 'domestically' in Europe since 2022 when their teams, already part of the cross border URC, were given access to European competition, but compete in Southern Hemisphere competition the Rugby Championship at international level.

Rugby league


Rugby league is popular in northern England, where the sport formed in 1895.

The Great Britain national team first played in 1908, and entered the World Cup until 1992 and the Tri-Nations until 2006. Great Britain has won the World Cup three times, whereas France has been runner-up twice.

Clubs from England compete in the only fully professional league, the Super League, as well as the Challenge Cup competition.



European teams have won most editions of the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship, led by Italy with three wins. In the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship, the Soviet Union has won five editions, Russia two, and Italy and Serbia one each. The Soviet Union has won three men's gold medals and four women's gold medals at the Olympics.

The European Volleyball Confederation was founded in 1963, but the Men's European Volleyball Championship was first held in 1948 and the Women's European Volleyball Championship was first held in 1949, with the Soviet Union and Russia leading both in titles.

The CEV Champions League is held annually since the 1959-60 edition. Russian clubs VC CSKA Moscow and VC Zenit-Kazan won 13 and six editions respectively, while Italian clubs Modena Volley and Volley Treviso won four each. The CEV Women's Champions League is held since 1960–61. WVC Dynamo Moscow won 11 editions, Uralochka Ekaterinburg won eight, and Volley Bergamo won seven.

Water polo


Water polo is played professionally in several European countries. LEN organises continental competitions for men's and women's. European teams have dominated the World Aquatics Championships and have also won several editions of the Women's Championship.

The LEN Champions League is the most important water polo club competition for teams in Europe and involves the leading teams from the top European nations.

Other sports


Other team sports like futsal, beach Soccer, roller hockey, and American football are also popular in some European countries.

Baseball is also gaining popularity in some countries, like in the United Kingdom, where the sport is reputed to have started in the 1800s before exploding in the United States.[5][6][7] In Spain, due to Latin American immigrants bringing the sport, particularly from countries like Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.[8][9] In countries like Italy, Ireland, and Germany, growth in the sport is partly due to influence from Italian Americans, Irish Americans, and German Americans.[10] Other countries include France, Netherlands, and Greece, among others.[11]

Some sport competitions features a European team gathering athletes from different European countries. These teams uses the European flag as an emblem. The most famous of these competitions are the Ryder Cup for men, and Solheim Cup for women, in golf, in both of which Europe challenge the United States. Other examples are the Laver Cup in tennis, where Europe face a World team, the Mosconi Cup in pool, the Weber Cup in bowling, the IAAF Continental Cup in athletics, and the Continental Cup of Curling.

Reigning European champions


National teams

Sport Men Women
Competition Team Year Competition Team Year
American Football European Championship of American Football   Italy 2021 (next in 2023) European Championship of American Football   Finland 2019 (next in 2023)
Association Football Euros   Italy 2020[a] (next in 2024) Euros   England 2021[b] (next in 2025)
Baseball / Softball European Baseball Championship   Netherlands 2021 (next in 2023) European Softball Championship   Italy 2021 (next in 2023)
Basketball EuroBasket   Spain 2022 (next in 2025) EuroBasket   Serbia 2021 (next in 2023)
Beach Soccer Euro Beach Soccer League   Switzerland 2022 (next in 2023) Euro Beach Soccer League   Spain 2022 (next in 2023)
Field Hockey EuroHockey Nations Championship   Netherlands 2021 (next in 2023) EuroHockey Nations Championship   Netherlands 2021 (next in 2023)
Futsal Futsal Euro   Portugal 2022 (next in 2026) Futsal Euro   Spain 2022 (next in 2023)
Handball European Handball Championship   France 2024 (next in 2026) European Handball Championship   Norway 2022 (next in 2024)
Roller Hockey Rink Hockey European Championship   Spain 2021 (next in 2023) Rink Hockey European Championship   Spain 2021 (next in 2023)
Rugby League Rugby League European Championship   France 2018 (next in TBD) Rugby League European Championship   Wales 2022 (next in TBD)
Rugby Union Six Nations   Ireland 2024 (next in 2025) Six Nations   England 2024 (next in 2025)
Underwater Hockey UWH Euro Championships   Turkey 2019 (next in TBD) UWH Euro Championships   France 2019 (next in TBD)
Volleyball EuroVolley   Italy 2021 (next in 2023) EuroVolley   Italy 2021 (next in 2023)
Water Polo European Water Polo Championship   Croatia 2022 (next in 2024) European Water Polo Championship   Spain 2022 (next in 2024)


Sport Men Women
Competition Team Season Competition Team Season
Association Football UEFA Champions League   Manchester City 2022–23 UEFA Women's Champions League   Barcelona 2022–23
Basketball EuroLeague   Real Madrid 2022–23 EuroLeague Women   Fenerbahçe 2022–23
Ice Hockey Champions Hockey League  Tappara 2022–23 No Competition
Rugby Union European Rugby Champions Cup   La Rochelle 2022–23 No Competition
Volleyball CEV Champions League   ZAKSA 2022–23 CEV Women's Champions League   Vakıfbank 2022–23
American Football European League of Football   Vienna Vikings 2022 No Competition
Baseball European Champions Cup (baseball)   HCAW 2023 No Competition
Floorball Champions Cup (floorball)   IBF Falun Champions Cup (floorball)   sv:Thorengruppen
Water Polo LEN Champions League   Pro Recco 2022–23 LEN Women's Champions League   Sabadell 2022–23
Handball EHF Champions League   Magdeburg 2022–23 Women's EHF Champions League   Vipers Kristiansand 2022–23
Field Hockey Euro Hockey League   Bloemendaal 2022–23 Men's Euro Hockey League Women's Euro Hockey League   Den Bosch 2023
Roller Hockey WSE Champions League   Sporting 2023–24 No Competition
Sport Mixed
Competition Team Season
Wheelchair rugby league European Club Challenge   Catalans Dragons 2024

European eSports


Since the early beginnings of Esports, Europe has had a role in the sport's advancement in world recognition. In the early 1990s, France's Electronic Sports World Cup and Germany's Gamers Gathering together both garnered more than 2,000 participants, being just a popular as other sports competitions in the United States and South Korea.[12] Just recently, Esports has recently become more recognized as a legitimate sporting event in Europe, marked by the formation of the European Esports Federation in 2019.[13] Since its formation, it has grown in size to 44 member nations and is currently headed by its president, Thiago Fernandes.[14] Today, nations like Sweden, Denmark, France, and Germany are all in the top highest earning nations in the world, each earning around $50 million.[citation needed]

Individual sports


The European Championships is a new multi-sport event which brings together the existing European Championships of some of the continent's leading sports, including Golf, Cycling, Athletics, Aquatics, and Gymnastics, every four years. The inaugural edition in 2018 will be staged by the host cities of Glasgow, Scotland and Berlin, Germany between 2 and 12 August.


The 2004 Tour de France rides the Champs Élysées

Road cycling is especially popular in France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. Nearly every UCI World Tour race is held in Europe, including the three Grands Tours: Tour de France, Vuelta a España and Giro d'Italia, as well as the five Monuments: Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Giro di Lombardia.

Notable road cyclists include Jacques Anquetil, Louison Bobet, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador, Miguel Indurain, Eddy Merckx, Gino Bartali, Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi, and Felice Gimondi.


British Open Championship

The Open Championship, also known as the British Open, is one of the four major golf tournaments. Other notable golf tournaments in Europe include the BMW PGA Championship, Scottish Open, Irish Open, French Open and Italian Open, which are part of the European Tour.

Europe competes as a single team in the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup versus the United States, and the Royal Trophy and EurAsia Cup versus Asia. Also, the Seve Trophy was played between the Great Britain and Ireland and the Continental Europe team.

Notable male golfers include Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington, Ian Woosnam, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Bernhard Langer, Martin Kaymer, Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal and Miguel Ángel Jiménez. Notable female golfers include Annika Sörenstam, Laura Davies and Suzann Pettersen.


Michael Schumacher won seven Formula One drivers championships, five of them with Scuderia Ferrari.

Motorsports are popular across nearly all of Europe. The Formula One, FIA World Endurance Championship, World Touring Car Championship, World Rally Championship and World Rallycross Championship are mainly held in Europe, and are traditionally dominated by European drivers and teams. Notable automobile races include the Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo Rally, 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours Nürburgring and 24 Hours Spa.

Notable racecar drivers include Jackie Stewart, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Tom Kristensen and Sébastien Loeb.

Motorcycle road racing is very popular in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. Most of the Motorcycle Grand Prix are held in Europe. Italian riders Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi are the two most successful of all time, with eight and seven 500cc / MotoGP World Championships respectively.[15] On the Isle of Man, the Isle of Man TT and other road races held in closed public roads are very popular.

Motorcycle speedway is also popular in Poland, Scandinavia, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.


The French Open (Roland Garros) in Paris.

Tennis is popular in most of Europe. Two of the four Grand Slam events are held in Europe: the Roland Garros in France and the Wimbledon Championships in the United Kingdom. The Rome Masters, Madrid Open, Italian Open and Paris Masters have ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, whereas the Madrid Open and Italian Open are also WTA Tour Tier I events.

Notable male tennis players include Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl and Björn Borg. Notable female tennis players include Steffi Graf, Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles, Justine Henin, Martina Hingis, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Conchita Martínez, Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza, Petra Kvitová, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, and Iga Świątek.

Other sports

Epsom Derby.

The most prestigious and lucrative athletics and aquatics meets are in Europe. The most prestigious sporting event related to athletics is the European Athletics Championships, wherein Mo Farah is the most successful individual athlete.[16]

For those areas with the proper climate, winter sports are also an important. In Scandinavian and Alpine countries, various forms of skiing and snowboarding are popular. European competitors have traditionally dominated at the Winter Olympics and the International Ski Federation World Championships.[17]

Horse racing is very popular in the United Kingdom and France. Major events are the Royal Ascot, Cheltenham Festival, Epsom Derby, Grand National and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Other popular individual sports include snooker, darts, and boxing.

Traditional sports


Some regions have games that are particular to their home, for example Gaelic games in Ireland, Calcio storico in Italy, shinty in Scotland, pétanque in southern France, bandy in Russia and Scandinavia, Basque Pelota in Basque Country, or bullfighting in Spain.

Olympic Games


Europe was the birthplace of the Olympic Movement that has become so central to modern individual sport, with the International Olympic Committee founded in Switzerland in 1894 and Greece being the first country to hold the First Olympic Games. Europe has hosted a total of 30 Olympic Games (16 Summer and 14 Winter), more than any other region in the world.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, East Germany and other communist countries had a fierce rivalry in the Olympic Games with Western Europe and the United States. Notable events include the Blood in the Water match in 1956, the 1972 Olympic Men's Basketball Final, the Miracle on Ice in the 1980 Winter Olympics, and the 1980 and 1984 boycotts.

Club over franchise


Unlike major team sports in the United States and Canada, where franchises are awarded to nominated cities, most European teams have grown from small clubs formed by groups of individuals before growing rapidly. Churches, universities and work places have often been the most fertile birthplace of many of Europe's major sports clubs, particularly in Britain, which in latter part of the nineteenth century led the way in organised sports.[18]

Clubs therefore had an equal chance to grow to become among the strongest in their particular sport, specially as in majority of popular sports promotion and relegation process exists and allows a plethora of places to compete for the top level. The cultural importance of the system has been demonstrated through the public rejection of the European Super League proposals in Spring 2021.[19][20]

See also



  1. ^ Delayed to 2021
  2. ^ Delayed to 2022


  1. ^ Dine, Philip; Crosson, Seán (2010). Sport, Representation and Evolving Identities in Europe. Bern: Peter Lang. p. 2. ISBN 9783039119776.
  2. ^ Samso, R. (19 December 2019). "Main football leagues in Europe in 2018-2019, ranked by average attendance of games". Statista. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Bundesliga still top of the league for attendances". Reuters. 15 January 2018. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Block (2005), pp. 86, 87, 111–113, 118–121, 135–138, 144, 160; Rader (2008), p. 7.
  6. ^ "Rounders (English Game)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  7. ^ Cohen, Claire (2 February 2015). "Save rounders! It's the only sport for people who hate sport". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  8. ^ Baseball in Cuba
  9. ^ Cuban baseball's historical influence in Spain
  10. ^ Josh Chetwynd, op. cit. , p. 40
  11. ^ "Schaerlaeckens: European baseball is providing prospects and gaining popularity". 9 September 2011.
  12. ^ "eSports History: How it all began". Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  13. ^ "European Esports Federation to Form With 12 National Members – ARCHIVE - The Esports Observer". 18 April 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  14. ^ "About Esports Europe - The Official Website Of Esports Europe". 13 August 2022. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  15. ^ "Valentino Rossi career". Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Official Website. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  16. ^ "European Championships: Farah & Rutherford help GB top table". BBC. 17 August 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  17. ^ "A history of winter olympic medals". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  18. ^ Crego, Robert (2003). Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 43–45. ISBN 9780313316104.
  19. ^ Niblock, Shane. "The European Super League – An international culture clash". OCO Global. Retrieved 21 September 2022.
  20. ^ Butler, Robert. "European Super League collapse: US football owners badly misread supporter culture in England". The Conversation. Retrieved 21 September 2022.