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British Culture – Sports that Originated in the UK: Football, Tennis, Boxing and More!

UK British Sports

Whenever you find yourself talking about sports to your friends or in your English classes, I’m sure you talk about ‘British sports’ even if you don’t realise it! Did you know that many of the world’s most popular sports originated in the United Kingdom? Since the middle of the 19th century, more than 10 official sports have been created in the UK!

Examples of British team sports:

footballer, British Sports

Football: Probably the most popular sport created in England, football rules were first written in 1863! The name of the sport is “Football”, because you have to use your feet to kick the ball and the only person who can use their hands in the goalkeeper. A game needs 2 teams of 11 players and teams win points when they put the ball in the goal.

rugby player

Rugby: Rugby is also a kind of football game. “The Rugby Football Union” was created in the UK in 1871! However, unlike Football, this game needs 2 teams of 15 players and you need to use your hands to get the ball into the enemy zone to win points. It is a very fast-paced and fun game to watch!

cricket player

Cricket: The word ‘cricket’ was created in 1598 but the game may have been created up to 300 years earlier! It is a team game where players use a bat and a ball. The game needs 2 teams of 11 players. In turn, a player in one team uses the bat to strike the ball and score ‘runs’ while the other team ‘fields’ and tries to get the player ‘out’.

hockey player

Hockey: The first hockey club was created in 1849 but the word ‘hockey’ was actually recorded by King Edward III in 1363! It’s a popular game particularly in India and Pakistan. The game is similar to football as there are 11 players in each team and you score points by hitting a small ball or a ‘puck’ into a goal, but players need to use hockey sticks to hit the ball.

curling player

Curling: According to some sources, curling was invented in Scotland in the medieval period, around the year 1540. Two teams of 4 players take turns to slide a stone on ice to a circular target. It takes a lot of skill to make sure the stones stop inside the target and players often knock their opponents’ stones out of the way too!

Examples of British individual sports:

tennis player

Tennis: The modern game of tennis was created between 1860 and 1865 in Birmingham, England. One or two players stand on each side of a net which separates the court and they use tennis rackets (with cords) to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt to their opponents. A player wins a point when his opponent can’t return the ball within the correct area of the court.

badminton player

Badminton: Badminton was created in the mid 1800’s in Badminton House, Gloucestershire. The game is similar to tennis; however, the net is much higher, the rackets are longer and instead of using a ball, players hit a shuttlecock (a projectile with a small cork ball and plastic or feathers).

squash player

Squash: Squash was invented near London in 1830. To play squash you need a four-walled court, squash rackets (slightly smaller than tennis rackets) and a small rubber ball. Players need to strike the ball with their rackets to a playable wall. If a player can’t strike the ball, the other wins a point. This is a very fast-paced and exciting sport!


Boxing: Boxing appeared in the 1700s in England. It is a combat sport in which players try to punch their opponent with gloved hands. A referee is designated to supervise the match (a series of rounds). A match can stop any time if an opponent is incapable to continue.

table tennis player

Table tennis: Table tennis originated in England and was created at the end of the 1800s. Two opponents hold a table tennis racket and hit a lightweight ball on a table. Similar to tennis and badminton, a player only wins a point if the opponent cannot return the ball on the correct part of the table.

Did you know?

The UK doesn’t actually have a football or rugby team! All the countries in the UK have their own teams (Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England) because these two sports are so popular and there is a lot of competition between the countries. However, during the Olympic Games and some other sporting events, the UK is represented as one team.

Although football was invented in the UK, the last (and only) trophy won by a British team during an international football competition was the World Cup in 1966, when England won! It has been nearly 50 years without a new European or International trophy…!

More recently, Andy Murray (native of Scotland) won the 2013 Wimbledon Tournament, one the most famous world grand slam competitions! This was a huge relief for the UK who had not had a British winner since… 1936 when Fred Perry won!

Thankfully, the last world cup in Rugby was won just 10 years ago!

So, although we might not have won many trophies, the United Kingdom is definitely a nation of sport lovers and it is surprising that so many sports originated here!

sports equipmentHave fun with English

Sports vocabulary.
Can you fill in the gaps in these sentences without looking at the text above?

  1. To play badminton you need to hit a __________ over a high net using a __________.
  2. In hockey, you need to strike a puck with a hockey __________.
  3. In football, you have to use your feet to kick the ball. However, one man is allowed to touch the ball with his hands. He is called the __________.
  4. A __________ can stop a boxing match.
  5. After only 3 __________, David Hayne was declared the winner of the boxing match.
  6. In table tennis, a __________ separates the two sides of the table.
  7. Wow, that player scored 100 __________ in the cricket match yesterday.

Answers from the royal family quiz:
1. What year was the Queen born?  b. 1926
2. What are Will and Kate’s official titles?  c. Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
3. How many rooms does Buckingham Palace have?  a. 775
4. Which of the following is not one of Prince William’s first names?  a. Charles
5. Prince Harry is William’s younger brother. However, Harry is just a nickname! What is his real name?  b. Henry
6. The Queen is fluent in another language apart from English. Which one?  a. French

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