Capital listed as greatest sporting city in Scotland

Edinburgh has seen some top class sporting action this year which will live long in the memory for years to come.

Wednesday, 5th September 2018, 8:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th September 2018, 9:00 am
Scotland versus Italy at Murrayfield. Picture: Jane Barlow

The rejuvenated Scottish national rugby team finished the Six Nations campaign in third place including memorable Murrayfield victories against England and France.

The Royal Commonwealth Pool hosted Scottish success in the European Diving Championships 2018.

Hibs had a fantastic 2017-18 season resulting in an exciting Europa League qualifying campaign while Hearts, buoyed by the opening of their new main stand, are currently top of the Scottish Premiership table after a blistering start to the campaign.

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This is just a snippet of what the Capital has offered passionate sporting fans this year and it has been rewarded with Edinburgh being ranked as Scotland’s greatest sporting city in 2018.

Research collaborated by ESPN and the University of Bath has discovered Edinburgh is the third best place in the UK to be a sports fan, pipped to the summit by Manchester and Liverpool.

A total of 49 UK cities were ranked according to 12 factors derived from a series of focus groups conducted with sports fans across the country.

As part of the research, ESPN asked 5,000 fans to rank the dozen factors that help make up a great sporting city. Those factors were given respective weightings to apply to each city’s results. Respondents ranked value for money as the most important element followed by matchday atmosphere and success of the city’s professional teams.

Scotland contributes to a northern dominance of the UK’s best sporting cities, with four of the top five, and eight northern cities listed in the top ten. Edinburgh rose seven places from tenth in 2017 to third this year after achieving top ten scores in five factors – success (second), venues (fifth), value for money (eighth), history (ninth) and choice (ninth).

Councillor Donald Wilson, culture and communities convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “There is no doubt in my mind Edinburgh is one of the best places in the UK for sport.

“Coupled with an abundance of parks and green space offering outdoor facilities, Edinburgh Leisure provides affordable access to 30 first-class venues including the much-loved Royal Commonwealth Pool. And, once built, the brand-new Meadowbank Sports Centre will inspire thousands of people to get fit and get active. Designed as a place to participate – rather than spectate – I’m sure we will see Edinburgh’s ESPN score continue to rise when doors open to the new venue.

“These public facilities are in addition of course to Murrayfield, Tynecastle and Easter Road – but it’s not all about professional venues. Success in sport should also be about investing in people and helping residents of all abilities to enjoy the choice of activities on offer.

“The council does this through programmes and clubs in schools and in communities, but there are always areas for improvement. We are considering creating a new sports and physical strategy for Edinburgh.

“One that will support the city in 2019 and beyond, break down barriers to access and place participation at its heart. A report will come to Culture and Communities Committee on this next week.”

Meanwhile Glasgow had the unique achievement of topping the national rankings for two factors – venues and history – and finishing last for participation.

Scotland is the best performing region of the UK, with both Edinburgh and Glasgow in the top ten, and Dundee in 16th – the city’s joint highest ever rank, climbing 15 places from 2017’s rank of 31st. Aberdeen is in 24th, also its best position in the list after an 11-place jump from 35th.

Edinburgh received a ranking of 40 out of 49 for a matchday experience for fans while Glasgow was ranked in sixth.

The Capital placed 24th in the local talent element which was surpassed by Dundee (15th). On the wrong end of the table, Aberdeen was listed as 33rd while Glasgow ended up second bottom in 48th place.

Steven Saunders, senior editor of, said: “It has been a great year for Scotland in ESPN’s Greatest Sporting Cities. Each of the four cities have improved or maintained their place. It’s also interesting to see Edinburgh rise above Glasgow for the first time, and with Dundee and Aberdeen making big jumps up the table, Scotland is a great place to be a fan right now. We survey more than 5,000 fans each year, so this offers great insight into the sporting mood across the UK.”

Manchester topped the rankings after scoring highly in many of the sections – three years after being crowned the winner of the greatest sporting city.

Liverpool claimed the title of best city to be a football fan for the second year running, with Leeds maintaining its position as the best city for both cricket and rugby league fans and Bath maintaining its status as the best city for rugby union fans.

Thomas Curran, assistant professor at the University of Bath, said: “Now we’re in the fourth year of the research some interesting trends are starting to emerge. The impressive performance of Blackburn, and Swansea’s fall to the bottom of the list, show how the performance of a city’s football teams impacts the mood of fans.

“Manchester is blessed with two of the biggest clubs not just in the UK, but the whole of Europe, so City and United’s strong performances last season have helped take them back to the top spot.”