Britons say darts and skateboarding are real sports - but fishing and Crossfit are not
February 27th, 2024, Christien Pheby

Britons say darts and skateboarding are real sports - but fishing and Crossfit are not

The rapid rise of 17-year-old Luke Littler has put professional darts back in the spotlight – and revived questions about whether or not it actually counts as a sport. While some believe it does, going as far as to lobby for its inclusion in the Olympics, others – such as The Telegraph’s Chief Sports Writer – say no, arguing that it is more of a “pub hobby” that lacks traditional athleticism.

But what do the public think? We presented Britons with a range of games and activities and asked if they qualify as real sports or not. By 51% to 42%, they believe darts meets the criteria – which puts it roughly on par with shooting in terms of legitimacy (52% vs. 39%).

It’s some way behind Olympic stalwarts such as cycling (92% vs. 5%), equestrian sports (78% vs. 16%), and sailing (78% vs. 15%), though. The public are also more likely to consider certain other activities that are sometimes criticised for a perceived lack of athleticism, such as golf (80% vs. 15%), motorsports (76% vs. 18%), and cue sports such as pool, snooker or billiards (57% vs. 37%) to be real sports than darts. Skateboarding also beats it out by 12 percentage points (63% vs. 29%).

So what’s not considered a proper sport?

Britons don’t think bodybuilding (41% vs. 50%) or dance (41% vs. 51%) qualify, although they’re more likely to think they count as real sports than CrossFit (31% vs. 40% - which, in fairness, registers a high level of “don’t knows” at 29%). Britons are most likely to say that fishing (29% vs. 63%), chess (21% vs. 72%) and esports – essentially, playing video games competitively – do not make the grade.

Just one in five consider Padel a real sport (21% vs. 12%) but this may be less a matter of legitimacy than unfamiliarity: 64% said they “don’t know” when asked about the game.

What makes a sport “real”? 

So what do Britons consider to be the essential components of a “real sport”?

Physical skill comes in top, with two-thirds saying it’s a key criterion (65%), with physical exertion trailing behind in second (51%).

The third most commonly-chosen element is a scoring system – be it a points/goals based system or a judge-based system 42%), with an element of strategy ranking fourth (41%).

Three in ten Britons also say a governing body or regulator makes a sport legitimate in their eyes (30%), with 18% saying that a sport’s longevity plays a key role in making it more “real”.

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YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on 2-5 February 2024, with a nationally representative sample of 2,012 adults (aged 18+ years) in Great Britain, using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education and social grade to be representative of all adults in Great Britain(18 years or older), and reflect the latest ONS population estimates. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.