You know what they say – politics and sports are always intertwined, and it is no different when referring to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is a member of both the European Union and the European Free Trade Association, known as the EFTA; this is the sports association that governs athletics in Europe. Essentially, the UK is part of the 28-nation European Economic Area (EEA), which also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. So, let us examine the major sporting events that have taken place in the country over the past year, shall we?
The Epson UK Student Sports Championships
The first event to consider was the Epson UK Student Sports Championships, which took place at the Olympic Stadium in London between 14th March and 18th April 2019. The sports tournament was formed in 2017 and is part of a worldwide programme that started in Japan in 1997. It is designed to encourage participation in track and field events among students, with a particular focus on youth sports in the UK. The governing body for this event is the Stadia and Athletics Association (STAAF), and they regulate the rules for the competition. A total of 28 teams from four-year colleges took part in the 2019 edition, with London being the location of the championships for the 10th consecutive year. Here is a short video explaining more about this event:
The Cricket World Cup
The year 2019 began with the exciting news that the Cricket World Cup – traditionally held in England – would be shifting to New Zealand and Australia, with the first game being played in Melbourne on 14th January. This huge event is organized by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and they officially named the competition the “Fifth Ashes”, with the previous four tournaments being referred to as the “First”, “Second”, “Third”, and “Fourth” Ashes. However, due to security concerns, the tournament was moved to New Zealand to avoid any trouble caused by the outbreak of the pandemic. The final was held at the Eden Park Stadium in Auckland, with the hosts winning in a spectacular fashion over Sri Lanka by nine wickets. The final played an important role in New Zealand’s historical first win in the tournament, as well as in the build-up to their victory in the 2020 ICC World Twenty20.
The ATP Finals
The next major sporting event that took place in the UK was the ATP Finals, which is the annual tennis tournament that concludes the season. The year 2019 was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the All-England Tennis Association (AETNA) and the first tournament was held in 1919. The event is overseen by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and is held at the prestigious Queen’s Park in London. The organisers of the tournament are Thomas Hockless and his company, Balls Ventures Limited. A total of eight players contested this year’s edition: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Alexander Zverev, and Dominic Thiem in the men’s singles, as well as Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Gael Montero in the men’s doubles. The mixed doubles was contested by Johanna Konta, Bruno Soares, and Michael Russell. Unfortunately, after four days of play, Nadal withdrew from the tournament due to injury, which meant that Djokovic went on to win his 10th ATP Finals title. There was also an all-time high attendance at this year’s edition, with 664,000 people tuning in to watch the tennis action. The event was broadcast in over 140 countries and available to stream online for those who couldn’t make it to London.
The Rugby World Cup
Moving away from sports for a moment, let us now examine the news surrounding the annual rugby union tournament – the Rugby World Cup. It is the third-largest sporting event in the world, according to the organizers of the tournament, with a total of 1.2 billion people watching the games live as they were broadcast on TV. The tournament is widely considered to be the sport’s grandest stage, with it being referred to as the “Churchill Cup” due to its important place in UK history. It is currently held in Japan and was originally supposed to be held in Britain in 2019, but was postponed due to the pandemic. The final tournament that year was eventually held in Auckland, New Zealand and saw England face off against South Africa in a battle of the nations. While the final was not broadcast live in the UK due to time restrictions, highlights were shown on television. In the end, England won by 30 points and secured their third title in the last four years. The tournament is due to return to the UK in 2023, which will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.
Finally, let us turn to the most famous annual sporting event between England and Wales – the Ashes. It is a rivalry that has spanned over a century and was first played during the summer months of 1882. The tournament is named after the black dog that accompanied England’s explorer, George Evans, during his Australian adventures. What is remarkable is that the Ashes have never been won by the team that travels down under first, with the home team traditionally winning after five matches with a ten-wicket margin. This year’s test was the 100th edition of this rivalry and saw England seek revenge after their humiliating defeat in the 2018 Ashes. Victorious England captain, Jhonny Wilkinson, said that the team was “desperately proud” to secure their first Ashes victory in 100 years. While there were no concrete plans for Spain to host the 2021 Rugby World Cup, the Spanish Athletics Federation (FESPA) are set to host the 2022 UEFA European Championship.
Back to sports – it is undeniable that the UK has some of the biggest events in world sport, especially considering that they are organized by English-speaking countries. While many of these tournaments are considered to be “prestige” events, it is important to remember that they provide a vital source of income for the countries and communities involved. Without the revenue that these tournaments generate, local clubs and teams would struggle to compete against the big clubs in Europe and England. Furthermore, many of these clubs are run on a non-profit basis, which means that the gate receipts from major tournaments are used to fund vital community projects. Finally, many of these events have a significant social significance, as people in the UK have been driven to participating due to their importance in the country’s history.