The big apple is the top sporting banana

NEW YORK may have two well-backed football clubs but it is the profile and strength of its various sporting entities that makes it the world’s top sporting city, on the evidence of research by the Swiss-based consultancy Burson, Cohn & Wolfe (BCW). 

New York, for the second year running, has topped BCW’s Ranking of Sports Cities. The “big apple” has a plethora of top sporting teams across American football (NFL), basketball, ice hockey, baseball and soccer. There’s no doubt that sport plays a big part in the culture of New York, but it is dominated by quintessentially American sports. The two leading New York NFL teams, the Giants and the Jets attract crowds in excess of 70,000 to their home games. By contrast, the soccer teams, the New York Red Bulls and New York City, draw attendances of 17,000 and 21,000 respectively. However, the nature of their ownership suggests there is healthy, long-term potential in New York soccer.

In the BCW report, London – in second place – is the top European sporting city, arguably due to its multitude of top level football clubs, some of which feature among the world’s wealthiest. Sandwiched between London and the next highest European city, Barcelona, is Los Angeles. 

Paris’s fifth place seems a little curious, even though the city will host the 1924 Olympic Games. Even more eyebrow-raising is the lofty position of Switzerland’s Lausanne (sixth). Manchester, which includes two of the world’s biggest football clubs, is seventh, Munich eighth and Madrid 10th. Two notable absentees in the top 50 are Liverpool and Lisbon, although both have a big football bias.

BCW said in its editorial: “In a year of postponement, rescheduling, relocation, and modifications for sport- ing events, it is more interesting than ever to discover the extent to which cities are associated with sport. The organisation of events became uncertain, tourism was banned and cities could no longer benefit from the degree of international exposure that is linked to hosting events. As a result, cities were forced to make different strategic choices when it came to sports.”

In 2021, football’s 2020 European Championship is scheduled to be played-out among 12 cities with the final stages (semi-finals and final) being hosted at Wembley Stadium in London. The pandemic could yet force UEFA to make some adjustments to its planning. 

BCW’s study is based on analysis that looks at the link between sport and the cities along with the perception of the relevant cities among governing bodies and the media. It’s an interesting report.

Game of the People has, for some time, been studying football cities and attempting to rank them, based on heritage, strength, culture, critical mass and performance. Our preliminary rankings, which will undoubtedly be modified, are: 1 – Madrid; 2 – Manchester; 3 – London; 4 – Barcelona; 5 – Liverpool; 6 – Munich; 7 – Milan; 8 – Turin; 9 – Buenos Aires; 10 – Glasgow; 11 – Rio de Janeiro; 12 – Lisbon; 13 – São Paulo; 14 – Dortmund; 15 – Moscow; 16 – Amsterdam; 17 – Paris; 18 – Rome; 19 – Marseille; 20 – Istanbul. Others in the study: Lyon, Shanghai, Tokyo, Montreal, St. Petersburg, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, Los Angeles and Porto. The report will be issued at the start of 2021-22 season.

Photo: Flickr JJ Hall, CC BY-NC 2.0

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