People travel for all kinds of reasons: relaxation, recreation, beauty, to see friends and family, to visit major attractions, etc. But what about traveling for sports?
The world is filled with incredible sporting events that are fun to keep track of from abroad, but unbelievable to take in as a live spectator. Often, everything from the venue to the fans can create an atmosphere that you just can’t experience watching on TV or tracking a game online, and it’s for this reason that sports tourism is an absolute necessity for anyone who loves athletic contests. With that in mind, we wanted to take this post to focus on England—a country that’s drastically underrated for its incredible selection of world-class sporting events.
Here are some of the events that most deserve your attention.
The Boat Race
In the U.S., sports fans celebrate incredible rivalries at every level of every sport. There’s Duke vs. North Carolina basketball and Michigan vs. Ohio State football at the college ranks; Yankees vs. Red Sox in professional baseball and Bruins vs. Canadiens in hockey, etc. But not one of those rivalries dates back 190 years.
That’s the boast that The Boat Race can make, and that incredible length of tradition is what makes it one of the most intriguing sporting events in the world. Basically, it’s a rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge, staged annually on the Thames River in London. And the event is expanding! As BBC Sport recently reported, 2015 will mark the first time that the universities’ respective women’s teams will race on the same course and on the same day.
Everyone knows the British are crazy for their soccer (or football), and while London is certainly one of the hubs for the sport, the city of Manchester may just have the most exciting event each year. The Manchester Derby is the name given to matches played between Manchester City and Manchester United—both firmly established Premier League clubs.
This season, the EPL standings show the two clubs both in the top-four in the league and separated by only a point. This is not an unusual situation, and helps to explain why these rivalry matches are so incredible to see.
The Grand National
England is home to a number of major horse races, but The Grand National might just provide the best mix of racing culture and stiff competition. Fans dress up in traditional race day attire to attend the stunning Aintree Racecourse, and trainers and jockeys compete for some of the most prestigious titles in racing. But The Grand National also caters uniquely to spectators through its vibrant betting scene.
In support of this year’s festival (which incidentally is just getting started), Betfair’s horse racing pages are littered with interesting insights and updated betting odds for the benefit of live spectators and remote fans alike. Most any sport allows betting on some level, but a race like The Grand National involves bettors on a different level. Reading up on odds and making decisions on which horses to support effectively helps get you in on the action, and this is undoubtedly one reason why the crowds at Aintree are so enthusiastic.
The FA Cup Final
This is another soccer match, held annually, though not always between the same two clubs. The Premier League title is the most prestigious prize in English soccer, but the FA Cup may be the next closest thing to a national championship of sorts. Naturally, that means it’s always a festive and impressive occasion.
But what really makes the FA Cup spectacular is that it’s played at Wembley Stadium – arguably the most incredible soccer stadium in the world (though a few of the ones Brazil built for the 2014 World Cup might have an argument there as well!). For sports tourists interested in taking in some of the world’s best venues, Wembley is a must-see destination.
And finally, there’s Wimbledon. Viewed by most tennis fans as the biggest of the four grand slam tournaments, it’s also the most traditional. The matches are played on grass, the players can wear only white (to the point that Roger Federer was asked to switch out his white Nikes because the orange soles violated dress code), and the spectators tend to be reverent and knowledgeable.
Taking in a match at Wimbledon can almost feel like a holy experience to a tennis fan, and even if you’re more of a general sports fan you can pick up on and appreciate the atmosphere. Not to mention this is one of those events that tends to naturally bring out the very best in its competitors. And plus, as with Wembley Stadium, you’re in London! It’s not a bad deal to visit an amazing sporting event with access to one of the world’s most popular urban travel destinations!