Sport plays a prominent role in English life. Popular team sports in England are association football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league. Major individual sports include athletics, tennis, golf, motorsport, and horseracing. A number of modern sports were codified in England during the nineteenth century, among them cricket, rugby union, rugby league, football(soccer), tennis and badminton. The game of baseball was first described in the eighteenth century England.Although it differs from sport to sport, English sport often has fierce rivalries with Scottish and particularly Australian sport, which spans the whole sporting spectrum.
StructureEngland has its own national team in most team sports, but the United Kingdom sends a combined team to the Olympics, which is formally "Great Britain and Ireland" but commonly referred to as "Great Britain". Competition between the home nations was traditionally at the centre of British sporting life, but it has become less important in recent decades. In particular, football's British Home Championship no longer takes place. In some sports there are still national English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish teams.The club competitions in most team sports are also English affairs rather than British ones. There are various anomalies however, such as the participation of the three largest Welsh football clubs in the English league system and an English club in the Scottish Football League.The relative prominence of national team and club competition varies from sport to sport. In football, club competition is at the centre of the agenda most of the time because clubs plays more matches each year, but the four national teams are also followed avidly. In cricket the national team is much more widely followed than the county competitions, which have a limited profile, whereas in rugby league club competition generally overshadows international fixtures. Rugby union falls between these two with very high profile international competitions and a strengthening club game.Sport England is the governing body responsible for distributing funds and providing strategic guidance for sporting activity in England. There are five National Sports Centres: Bisham Abbey, Crystal Palace, HolmePierrepont National Watersports Centre, Lilleshall and Plas Y Brenin National Mountain Centre. Everyday Sport is Sport England’s physical activity campaign. There are 49 County Sport Partnerships in England with areas for responsibility separated by Local Authority County boundaries.The English Institute of Sport is a nationwide network of support services, aimed at improving the standard of English athletes. Services include sports medicine, physiotherapy, sports massage, applied physiology, strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology and Performance Lifestyle support. It is based at 8 regional hubs and other satellite centres.The Minister for Sport and Tourism and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have responsibility for sport in England.
Football The modern global game of association football was first codified in 1863 in London. The impetus for this was to unify English public school and university football games. There is evidence for refereed, team football games being played in English schools since at least 1581. An account of an exclusively kicking football game from Nottinghamshire in the fifteenth century bears striking similarity to football. The playing of football in England is documented since at least 1314. England is home to the oldest football clubs in the world (dating from at least 1857), the world's oldest competition (the FA cup founded in 1871) and the first ever football league (1888). The modern passing game of football was developed in London in the early 1870s  For these reasons England is considered the cradle of the game of football. Football is the highest profile sport in England by a very wide margin. This has been the case for generations, but the gap is widely perceived to have increased since the early 1990s and football's dominance is often seen as a threat to other sports. The governing body for football in England is The Football Association which is the oldest football organisation in the world. It is responsible for national teams, the recreational game and the main cup competitions. They have however lost a significant amount of power to the professional leagues in recent times. English football has a league system which incorporates thousands of clubs, and is topped by four fully professional divisions. The elite Premier League has 20 teams and is the richest football league in the world. The other three fully professional divisions are the run by The Football League, the oldest league in the world, and include another 72 clubs. Annual promotion and relegation operates between these four divisions and also between the lowest of them and lower level or "non-League" football. There are a small number of fully professional clubs outside the top four divisions, and many more semi-professional clubs. Thus England has over a hundred fully professional clubs in total, which is considerably more than any other country in Europe. The two main cup competitions in England are the FA Cup (the world's oldest football competition), which is open to every men's football team in England; and the League Cup (currently known as the Carling Cup), which is for the 92 professional clubs in the four main professional divisions only. Each season the most successful clubs from each of the home nations qualify for the two Europe-wide club competitions organised by UEFA, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup). England has both produced winners of each of these competitions. The England national football team won the World Cup in 1966 when it was hosted in England. Since then, however, they have failed to reach a final of a major international tournament, though they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006, as well as the quarter-finals of Euro 2004. The FA hopes that the completion of the National Football Centre will go some way to improving the national team's performance.
Cricket Cricket was invented in England and is England's most popular summer game. It is widely covered in the media, and the fortunes of the England team are closely followed by many people who never attend a live game. There are thousands of teams but there eighteen professional county clubs, seventeen of them in England and one in Wales. Each summer the county clubs compete in the first class County Championship, the oldest recognised cricket competition in the world, which consists of two leagues of nine teams and in which matches are played over four days. The same teams also play the one day National League, a one day knock out competition called the Friends Provident Trophy, and the short-form Twenty20 Cup. These clubs are heavily dependent on subsidies from the England and Wales Cricket Board, which makes its money from television and endorsement contracts and attendances at international matches. England is one of the test-playing nations, whilst Scotland and Ireland are associate members of the ICC and compete at One Day International level. Each summer two foreign national teams visit England to play seven test matches and numerous one-day internationals. In the British winter the England team tours abroad. The highest profile rival of the England cricket team is the Australian team, with which it competes for The Ashes, one of the most famous trophies in British sport. The cricket team won The Ashes in 2005 and in 2009, and are ranked the 4th best Test nation in the world. England is also a pioneering nation in the sport of Indoor Cricket. England was the host nation of the 2007 Indoor Cricket World Cup, which was held in Bristol. England also sent 5 teams to Australia to play in the 2009 Indoor Cricket World Cup in Brisbane. There are a number of indoor cricket centres located across England, however, the nature of the game restricts large audience attendances.
Rugby Like football, rugby union and rugby league both developed from traditional British football games in the 19th century. Rugby union was codified in 1871. Rugby league was established in 1895 by a number of clubs which wished to be allowed to pay their players, and subsequently developed somewhat different rules. For much of the 20th century there was considerable antagonism between rugby league, which was a mainly working class game based in the industrial regions of northern England, and rugby union, which is a predominantly middle class game in England, and is also popular in the other home nations. This antagonism has abated since 1995 when the International Rugby Board opened rugby union to professional players.
Rugby league The governing body of rugby league in the United Kingdom is the Rugby Football League. Rugby league draws most of its support from its heartlands in Yorkshire, North West England, and Cumbria. The top level league is the 14-team Super League. Eleven of the teams are based in the heartlands, with one team each in London, France and Wales. Below this level are the Championship and Championship One (formerly the National Leagues); the Championship has 11 teams following the 2009 addition of a team from France and Championship One has 10. There is promotion and relegation between the Championship and Championship One, but from the 2009 season the Super League will consist of 14 franchises, based on renewable three-year licences. The main knock-out competition is the Challenge Cup, which also includes clubs from France, Russia, Wales and Scotland. Rugby league is also played as an amateur sport, especially in the heartland areas, where the game is administered by BARLA. Since the rugby union authorities ended the discrimination against playing rugby league amateur numbers in the sport have increased, particularly outside the heartland areas. Through competitions such as the Rugby League Conference, consisting of one nationwide league of ten teams and twelve other regional leagues, including one Welsh and one Scottish league, the sport now has a national spread, at amateur level at least . Internationally, England fields a competitive team in international rugby league. For many tournaments the home nations are combined to compete as Great Britain. The Great Britain team won the Rugby League World Cup in 1954, 1960 and 1972, but England and Wales now compete separately in this tournament and Australia held the title from 1975 until 2008 when they finally lost their grip on the title after being beaten by New Zealand in a thrilling final in Brisbane. The Great Britain team competes with Australia and New Zealand in the more recently founded Tri-Nations competition. Great Britain also competes as a single team in test series such as the Ashes (against Australia) and the Baskerville Shield (against New Zealand). The England national rugby league team will compete more regularly as a full test nation, in lieu of the Great Britain national rugby league team, which, following the 2007 Centenary Test Series against New Zealand will only reform as an occasional southern hemisphere touring side.
Other team sports Basketball is a minor sport in England. As of the 2006-07 season the top level league is the ten team British Basketball League and second league is the twelve team English Basketball League. The teams are professional or semi-professional but have modest resources. Great Britain men's national basketball team, which was formed by the national basketball organisations of England, Scotland and Wales on December 1, 2005, have not achieved any major success yet. Despite that, the qualification for the 2009 European basketball championship, after 28 years of absence from any major international basketball event for any of the Great Britain's countries' national teams, has marked Great Britain as one of the uprising basketball nations in Europe. Ice hockey is a minor sport in England. Six teams out of the ten-team professional Elite League which features many former NHL players. Hockey is a moderately popular recreational sport in England. The Great Britain men's team won the hockey tournament at the 1988 Olympics. However British hockey has gone backwards since then, partly because of conflicts between the need to foster a combined team to compete in the Olympics, and the commitment of the hockey associations of each of the home nations to the retention of separate national teams to compete in other international competitions. Australian rules football is a team sport that is recognised as the fastest growing participation sport in England and is also spectator sport with a long but obscure history in England and has grown since 1989 to several amateur leagues. Australian Football League exhibition matches have been held in London every few years since 1972. (see Australian rules football in England). The Irish sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling are also organised on a similar basis. Dating back to the 1880s London GAA teams compete in top level competitions in Ireland. During the 1970s and 80s there were as many as 85 GAA clubs in the London area and hundreds around Britain, but due to the fall off in Irish immigration in the 1990s the number has fallen considerably. English national teams also boast top-eight world rankings, as of autumn 2008, in the smaller team sports of Korfball (mixed), Ultimate Frisbee (both the men's, women's and mixed disciplines, competing as Great Britain), and Lacrosse (both the men's and women's versions).
School sport Sport is compulsory for all students up to the age of sixteen, but the amount of time devoted to it is often small. The leading body for physical education in the United Kingdom is the Association for Physical Education. Sportsmark is Sport England's accreditation scheme for secondary schools. The scheme recognises a school's out of hours sports provision. There are frequent complaints that state sector schools do too little to encourage sport and a healthy lifestyle. Since the 1980s it has become a cliché to complain about sales of school playing fields for development. Sports culture is strong in independent schools in the United Kingdom, and these schools contribute disproportionately high numbers of competitors in sports which are traditionally considered 'elitist', such as cricket and rugby union. Participants of other sports, notably association football, rugby league, boxing and athletics, are much more likely to come from state schools. In addition to the many of the sports already mentioned, popular sports at junior level include netball and rounders, both of which are played almost entirely by girls. However, in recent times schoolgirls have increasingly played sports which are traditionally male, especially football and cricket, but also others such as rugby.