Europeans’ never-say-die-spirit for sports


Mastercard Sport Economy Index 2023 Image: Mastercard

Europe’s famous passion for sport remains as buoyant and resilient as ever, with fans racing back to gyms and stadiums over the past 12 months. That is according to the Mastercard Sport Economy Index 2023, published on January 19th.

‘Mastercard’ stated that the survey of over 11,000 Europeans -published for the second year running – reveals that more people attended live sporting events (+12pp) and regularly exercised (+10pp) in 2022 than they did in 2021, as sport remains a powerful heartbeat of society across the region.

The region’s enthusiasm for sport also translated into a significant increase in consumer spending across the sector. Analysis by the Mastercard Economics Institute shows that consumer card spending on sporting goods, services and experiences was up 37 percent in 2022 compared to 2021.

‘Mastercard’ further stated that the Mastercard Sport Economy Index 2023 is published ahead of a bumper year of European sport, which includes the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, Rugby World Cup 2023, The Open (the oldest golf tournament in the world), Roland Garros (French Open), and the League of Legends European Championship (esports league) – all sponsored by Mastercard.

Technology Powering Sports Entertainment

Over the past 12 months, the digital footprint of sport continued to rise, with more than six in 10 (61 percent) Europeans stating that technology was a major lifeline in how they enjoyed their favorite events, teams and competitors.

The top five ways in which Europeans used technology to enjoy sport in 2022 were: To follow events remotely on social media, to watch multiple matches at once, to experience a sporting event via virtual reality (VR), to watch esports competitions via streaming platforms, and to listen to sporting podcasts.

The prominence of tech in sport looks set to rise further in 2023. More than half (56 percent) of fans believe tech holds the key to a more inclusive, profitable future for sport – with VR ready to play a key role in this next step.

Over a quarter of European sports fans have already experienced sport via VR, with half of all respondents hoping to do so in the next year. VR also looks set to form a key part of the stadium of the future, with 21 percent fans hoping to experience immersive technology that demonstrates what it feels like to be an athlete on matchday.


  • Fifty-four (54) percent Europeans attended live sports events in 2022 (+12 pp from last year’s index);
  • Sixty-one (61) percent Europeans considered tech to be a vital lifeline for how they enjoyed sport last year;
  • Over half of Europeans did more exercise in 2022 than in 2021;
  • Half of Europeans want to experience sport via virtual reality in 2023; and
  • 1/3 Europeans want to hit the slopes and go skiing in 2023.


Most Popular Sports were:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Cycling


Top Three (3) Use Cases were:

  • Social media
  • Multiscreen viewing
  • Watching esports


The Most Popular Physical Sports were:

  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Football
  • Weight Lifting


Live Sport is Alive and Kicking

  • While tech powers at-home and on-the-go entertainment, the magic of live sport continue to entice fans back to stadiums across the continent;
  • Over half (54 percent) of Europeans attended live events in 2022 – a 12pt increase from 2021 – with football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and cycling the most popular sporting attractions; and
  • The return of full stadiums and venues has had a significant positive impact on fan satisfaction, with six in 10 fans saying that their experience attending events in 2022 was better than it was in 2021.


As always, however, there was room for improvement. When asked which features should form the ‘matchday of the future’, Europe’s top 10 answers were:

  • Live music at breaks/half-time;
  • Better facilities for disabled fans;
  • Earpieces to hear live manager/player communication;
  • VR experiences to show ‘player’s view’;
  • In-game supporter engagement (player of the match voting or kiss-cam);
  • Retail outlets for matchday shopping;
  • Bottomless brunch before the match;
  • Eight (8) TV screens on back of seats to watch other entertainment;
  • Spa facilities with a pitch view; and
  • Themed fancy dress matchdays for fans in the crowd.


Exercise Economy is Thriving

  • On top of enjoying sporting entertainment, Europe’s craze for exercising – and gaming – continues going from strength to strength;
  • Over half (54 percent) of Europeans did more exercise in 2022 than they did in 2021 – an increase of 10 pts vs. the same metric last year – with hiking, swimming, running, football, and weightlifting the most popular physical activities. Videogaming also thrived last year, with 52 percent Europeans picking up a controller in the past 12 months;
  • 2022 also signaled a mass return to gyms and leisure centers. Over four (4) in 10 people (43 percent) were more likely to pay for a membership to exercise rather than rely on home workouts or park runs. This means the number of people preferring to workout in free-to-access environments has dropped 21pts vs. the 2021 data; and
  • Europeans continued to invest in their fitness, with sporting goods retail sales – such as golf clubs, tennis balls and bikes – rising 15 percent in 2022 vs. 2021, according to the Mastercard Economics Institute.

Remarked Jeannette Liendo, Senior Vice-President, Marketing and Communications at Mastercard Europe, “The past 12 months have seen Europe’s passion for sport go from strength to strength, as fans have raced back to stadiums and gyms to enjoy their favorite pastime on their terms. Equally, the influence of technology in sport entertainment continues to rise, and the exciting potential of emerging technologies such as VR is now backed by strong consumer enthusiasm to give them a try. Sport is a famous, resilient component of European culture and we are proud to sponsor some of the region’s most exciting sporting competitions and events – from the UEFA Champions League and the Rugby World Cup 2023 to the League of Legends European Championship – for 2023.”

Europeans Traveling for Sport

Finally, Europe’s passion for sport looks set to encourage more jetsetting in 2023. One-third of people plan on traveling abroad to watch a live sporting event this year.

The live sporting calendar kicked off in style this month, with the 83rd Hahnenkamm World Cup Races (Ski World Cup race) in Kitzbühel, Austria, sponsored by Mastercard. This looks set to inspire three (3) in 10 Europeans to hit the slopes to go skiing or snowboarding in 2023.

  • 54 percent Europeans attended live sports events in 2022 (+12 pp from last year’s index).

Footnote: This research was conducted by Ketchum Research & Analytics on behalf of Mastercard. The survey and field work was conducted by Vitreous World. A total of 11,081 people, aged 18+, were surveyed across Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom in November 2022.

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Its mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart, and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, its innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, Governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. Mastercard’s decency quotient, or DQ, drives its culture and everything they do inside and outside of their company. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, they are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.

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