Last year, Manchester was named the UK’s Greatest Sporting City in a study by the Universities of Gloucester and Bath for ESPN. This year it has been knocked off the top spot – by Leicester.
And according to the same research, Manchester is only the fourth best city in the country to be a football fan – behind Glasgow, Liverpool, and, yes, you guessed, Leicester in the number one spot.
If you’re thinking Leicester’s meteoric rise from 18th in last year’s sporting city rankings to top this year might have something to do with the fact that Leicester City won the Premiership last season, you’d be right. In fact it has everything to do with it.
The study ranks 49 cities according to 12 factors which sports fans up and down the country reckon make a great sporting city. The fans then ranked the 12 factors in order of importance and used them to rate their own town or city.
Leicester’s sports fans ranked their home city top on 5 of the 12 factors. However, many of the factors – like atmosphere and matchday experience – were subjective. So in a season in which Leicester City won the Premiership at odds of 5,000-1 and both Manchester clubs underperformed by their own high standards – despite both winning a trophy – Leicester’s sports fans’ euphoria at their football club’s success clearly coloured their perception of their own city.
Now we’ve nothing against Leicester. Finishing top of the Premier League last season was a fantastic achievement and good for the game. And Leicester may well have been the UK’s top football city over the last 12 months. But is it really the UK’s top sporting city?
Based solely on objective criteria, we don’t think so.
Manchester has the largest concentration of sporting venues in Europe. It has hosted the Commonwealth Games, football and rugby World Cups and cricket Test matches. It has two of the top football clubs in Europe which between them have a total of 3 European Cups, 24 league titles and 17 FA Cups. It has the National Cycling Centre, Aquatics Centre, Squash Centre, Great City Games, the Great Manchester Run, two reigning world boxing champions, Ricky Hatton, Lancashire CCC and the National Football Museum. Oh, and the Rio Olympics homecoming parade is taking place in Manchester
Leicester has the reigning Premier League champions (one League title), a very good rugby union team and a decent cricket team. Gary Lineker comes from Leicester. So does Phil Shaw, the man who founded extreme ironing, an outdoor activity in which people take ironing boards to remote locations and iron items of clothing.
So well done Leicester and congratulations on winning the Premiership. But when it comes to the UK’s number 1 sporting city there can only be one winner. Manchester.
Greatest Sporting Cities 2016