The UK boasts a strong and respected sporting reputation, which is supported by the presence of major sports brands and extensive experience in hosting and organizing global sporting events.
The UK has produced numerous sporting champions and has successfully hosted prestigious events like the 2012 Olympics and the upcoming 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
The government provides funding for sports organizations, with UK Sport planning to host an additional 97 major sporting events in the UK in the coming decade. Increased grants for grassroots sports are promoting physical activity across the country, and innovations in the sports and health tech sector from the UK are shaping the future of global sports.
The UK is a leading market for sports and sports tech in Europe, offering various business opportunities:
The UK has embraced innovation in athlete performance tracking, including wearable technology, advanced sensors, and GPS tracking. Activity data and analytics, along with AI, are transforming how athletes train and compete.
Media Consumption and Distribution
The UK hosts globally renowned sporting events, providing opportunities in media consumption, distribution, sales, and marketing. Events like the Premier League matches are broadcast to a massive global audience.
AR and VR are changing how fans interact with sports, creating opportunities for UK-based companies to capitalize on the country’s talent pool for developing immersive content.
Gaming and Esports
Gaming and esports offer growing opportunities for sports teams and leagues to engage with the next generation of sports fans. UK sports teams are actively investing in the gaming and esports industry.
Management, Organization, and Sustainability
Sustainability is a top priority for UK sports teams, offering opportunities for businesses to support sustainable practices and green technologies.
Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and NFTs
Blockchain technology can provide innovative solutions for athletes, fans, sponsors, and advertisers. NFTs are becoming a new means of fan engagement in the sporting space.
The UK government is committed to leading in 5G engineering and technology. The sports economy can benefit from 5G expansion, offering real-time immersive content for sporting events and sports tech innovations. Projects like VISTA showcase the potential of 5G-powered sporting events.
These opportunities demonstrate the UK’s strong presence in the sports and sports tech sector, making it a prime location for businesses in this industry.
Sport and physical activity play a significant role in the UK’s economy, contributing £39 billion. The sports landscape in the UK encompasses various sports organizations, including large professional clubs, semi-professional teams, and amateur sports.
The UK also leads Europe in the number of Sports Tech start-ups. Businesses operating in the British sports industry can tap into the expertise of various organizations, including government-supported entities like Sport England and consulting groups such as Sporting Innovations. This ecosystem provides a supportive environment for innovation and development in the sports sector.
The UK offers multiple assets for the sports industry to utilize across various regions:
- London is the leading European city for Sports Tech funding (2016-2020).
- It houses market-leading Sports Tech companies and internationally recognized universities.
- Major sports teams, including the first purpose-built NFL stadium outside of America, are based in London.
- The North of England features a cluster of Sports Tech companies and high-profile Premier League football clubs.
- Renowned educational institutions like Sheffield Hallam University provide a talent pool for innovation in the sports economy.
- Northern Ireland is known for its tech development expertise, with one of the fastest-growing tech sectors in the UK.
- Northern Irish Sports Tech companies offer cutting-edge solutions to global sports clubs.
- Ulster University’s School of Sport conducts research to support ongoing innovation.
- Birmingham hosted the 22nd Commonwealth Games in 2022, with significant public investment accelerating investment and regeneration in the region.
- The Games provided opportunities in business, trade, cultural engagement, education, and tourism, with a focus on long-term legacy.
These regions offer diverse opportunities and resources for the sports industry, fostering innovation and development in Sports Tech and related sectors.
Universities across the UK are actively contributing to advancements in sports technology and driving innovation in the industry. Some notable institutions include:
- Home to the Sports Technology Institute, a £15 million center equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.
- Loughborough University has a global reputation for its collaboration with renowned brands in designing, simulating, testing, and manufacturing sporting goods.
English Institute of Sport (EIS)
- EIS’s Sports Performance Innovation team employs cutting-edge technology, engineering, and research in science and medicine to enhance the performance of British athletes.
- BAE Systems serves as UK Sport’s Official Research and Innovation Partner, applying novel technology and engineering solutions to help British athletes achieve sporting excellence.
These institutions, in conjunction with R&D tax credits, have significantly influenced British innovation. The UK’s impressive performance, ranking fourth in the 2021 Global Innovation Index, reflects the positive impact of these endeavors.
Business and government support
The UK hosts a range of accelerators and business support organizations that play a pivotal role in advancing the sports economy. One such entity is the Sport Tech Hub by London Sport.
The Sport Tech Hub delivers a customized 12-week program designed to assist startups in validating their initial products and guide scale-ups looking to expand their presence in the UK and beyond. Over the past three years, they have supported 31 startups.
In addition to accelerators, there are numerous funding opportunities aimed at promoting physical activity among the population. These grants are available from diverse sources, including local councils, Sport England, and charitable trusts, and are instrumental in developing sports and leisure projects. Moreover, there are tax relief incentives in place for community amateur sports clubs, further bolstering grassroots sports activities for communities across the UK.