YouGov Siraj/ SMG Insight interviewed respondents from 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa including Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. Respondents were asked to choose their favourite sport to watch on TV, participate in personally and sporting events they followed on a regular basis.

The research reveals that the most popular sport followed on TV or in the media on a regular basis in the Middle East and North Africa is football, with 58% of respondents saying they regularly follow the sport. 17% said they regularly watched swimming while motorsports and martial arts/wrestling were cited by 15% of respondents each.

Respondents were also asked which sport, if any, they personally participated in on a regular basis. Football and swimming came out top with 27% and 10% respectively.

The FIFA Football World Cup was cited as the most popular football event/competition by just over half of respondents from the Middle East and North Africa (55%). Over a quarter of respondents chose a football league from their home country (27%). The Spanish La Liga (26%) and UEFA Champions League (25%) were also cited as regularly followed football competitions. Less popular were the English Premier League (16%), Arab Champions League (14%) and UEFA Europa League (13%).

Out of those respondents who regularly followed the English Premier League, the majority followed Manchester United (73%) followed closely by Arsenal (65%) and Chelsea (61%). Other English Premier League teams followed by Middle Eastern and North African respondents include Liverpool (39%) and Manchester City (26%). 18-24 year old respondents, however, favoured Arsenal over Manchester United with the majority (72%), supporting the London based team.

Top 5 followed Premier League football teams (by region):

GCC Levant North Africa* Egypt
Manchester United 71 72 68 77
Arsenal 63 59 77 68
Chelsea 62 51 70 61
Liverpool 38 41 38 41
Manchester City 30 29 28 20
 *Excluding Egypt


Frank Saez, Managing Director for SMG Insight commented on the results, “We expect Arsenal and Manchester City will quickly close in on Manchester United’s position as most followed team in the Middle East  in the coming years, the survey points to the younger generation who already demonstrate that the tide of team popularity is turning. Arsenal and Manchester City draw considerable investment from the Middle East and these investments are beginning to show the fruits of positive return”.

Amongst popular ball sports events and competitions, 11% of Middle Eastern and North African respondents cited the Grand Slam Tennis tournaments as a sporting event they regularly watched. The NBA basketball championships (7%) and the FIBA World Championships (5%) followed. Out of those surveyed, respondents from Morocco favoured tennis the most with under a third (29%) following the Grand Slam tournaments and 16% following the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 on a regular basis.

The top three most followed non-ball sporting events for respondents in the Middle East and North Africa were the Summer Olympic Games (16%), IAAF World Championships (12%) and Formula One World Championships (11%). The Olympics were most favoured by respondents from Kuwait with a quarter (25%) regularly following the Summer Games and 15% the Winter Games. The Formula One World Championships were the most popular event in Lebanon (22%), United Arab Emirates (15%) and Syria (14%). Over a third of Moroccan respondents (34%) chose the IAAF World Championships, making the athletics event the most popular non- ball sporting event in Morocco.

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110411 | Popularly followed sports in the Middle East and North Africa