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British sport is often subdivided by nation into English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish and/or Irish bodies.
Major sports including association football, rugby football, boxing, badminton, cricket, tennis and golf originated, or were substantially developed, in the United Kingdom and the states that preceded it. A 2006 poll found that football is the most popular sport in the United Kingdom.
In international competitions, separate teams represent England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in most team sports, as well as at the Commonwealth Games. (In sporting contexts, these teams can be referred to collectively as the Home Nations. However, there are occasions where a single sports team represents the United Kingdom, including at the Olympics where the UK is represented by the Great Britain team.
Main articles: Cricket in England, Cricket in Ireland, Cricket in Scotland, and Cricket in Wales
Cricket is claimed to have been invented in England (though recent research suggests it was actually invented in Belgium and the England cricket team, controlled by the England and Wales Cricket Board, is the only national team in the UK with Test status. Team members are drawn from the main county sides, and include both English and Welsh players. Cricket is distinct from football and rugby where Wales and England field separate national teams, although Wales had fielded its own team in the past. Irish and Scottish players have played for England because neither Scotland nor Ireland have Test status and have only recently started to play in One Day Internationals. Scotland, England (and Wales), and Ireland (including Northern Ireland) have competed at the Cricket World Cup, with England reaching the Final three times. There is a professional league championship in which clubs representing 17 English counties and 1 Welsh county compete.
Main articles: Football in England, Football in Northern Ireland, Football in Scotland, and Football in Wales See also: Football in the United Kingdom England's new Wembley Stadium. It is the most expensive stadium ever built. Hampden Park, Glasgow—Scotland's national football stadium. Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, national stadium of Wales
Each of the Home Nations has its own football association, national team and league system, though a few clubs play outside their country's respective systems for a variety of historical and logistical reasons.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries in international competition and, as a consequence, the UK does not compete as a single team in football events at the Olympic Games. There are proposals to have a UK team take part in the 2012 Summer Olympics but the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations have declined to participate, fearing that it would undermine their independent status—a fear confirmed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter] England has been the most successful of the home nations, winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, although there has historically been a close-fought rivalry between England and Scotland.
The English football league system includes hundreds of inter-linked leagues, consisting of thousands of clubs. The Premiership at the top, is the most-watched football league in the world and is particularly popular in Asia Below this, The Football League has three divisions and then the Football Conference has a national division and two feeder regional leagues. Thereafter the structure becomes increasing regional. English teams have been successful in European Competitions including some who have become European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners: Liverpool (five times), Manchester United (three times), Nottingham Forest (twice) and Aston Villa. More clubs from England have won the European Cup than any other country (four compared to three from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands). Moreover, England ranks second in the all time list of European club trophies won with 35, one behind Italy's 36. The European Cup competition itself came about as the result of the success of another English club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, against top European sides in the 1950s. The 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium is England's principal sporting stadium.
The fScottish football league system has two national leagues: the Scottish Premier League, the top division, and the Scottish Football League, which has three divisions. Below this, but not connected to the national leagues, are three regional leagues; the Highland Football League, the East of Scotland Football League and the South of Scotland Football League. One English club, Berwick Rangers, plays in the Scottish system. Scotland is home to two world-renowned football clubs in the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers. Scottish teams that have been successful in European Competitions include Celtic (European Cup in 1967), Rangers (European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972) and Aberdeen (European Cup Winners' Cup and European Super Cup in 1983). Celtic were the first British club to win the European Cup. Hampden Park is the principal stadium and home of the Scottish FA.
The Welsh football league system includes the Welsh Premier League and regional leagues. Welsh Premiership club The New Saints play their home matches on the English side of the border in Oswestry. The Welsh clubs of Cardiff City F.C., Colwyn Bay F.C., Merthyr Tydfil F.C., Newport County A.F.C., Swansea City A.F.C. and Wrexham F.C. play in the English system. Cardiff's 76,250 seater Millennium Stadium is the principal sporting stadium of Wales.
The Northern Ireland football league system includes the IFA Premiership. One Northern Irish club, Derry City, plays its football outside of the UK in the Republic of Ireland football league system. Windsor Park, Linfield F.C.'s 20,332-seater stadium, is also the home stadium of the national team.
Main articles: Rugby league in England, Rugby league in Scotland, and Rugby league in Wales
Rugby league is played as a developing sport throughout the UK, but in Northern England, it is the main sport in many areas, particularly in Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire in towns such as Wigan and St Helens. It also has a substantial presence in London and South Wales.
It originates from and is generally played in Northern England and a single 'Great Britain Lions' team had competed in the Rugby League World Cup and Test match games, but this changed slightly in 2008 when England, Scotland and Ireland competed as separate nations.
Great Britain is still being retained as the full national team for Ashes tours against, Australia, New Zealand and France.
In 2013, The United Kingdom will host the Rugby League World Cup for the 5th time.
Main articles: Rugbyin E union ngland, Rugby union in Ireland, Rugby union in Scotland, and Rugby union in Wales
Rugby union is organised on a separate basis for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with each having a league system and a top ranked international team.
Rugby union is played as a minority sport throughout the UK, but has a number of heartlands, notably South Wales, the Scottish Borders, the English West Country and so on. It also has a substantial presence in Northern Ireland (RU is organised on an all-Ireland basis), Edinburgh, London, Leicester etc.
While England has won the World Cup in 2003, Wales has achieved a best of third place and Scotland a best of fourth place. Ireland has not progressed beyond the quarter finals.
In 2015, England will host the Rugby World Cup for the second time.