The United Kingdom was officially formed in 1707 and is a state consisting of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its capital city is London, which has a population of more than seven million people. London has twice previously hosted the Olympic Games, in 1908 and 1948. The other capitals are Edinburgh (Scotland), Cardiff (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland). Other large cities include Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool. The UK is a monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head, and is run by a government – David Cameron is the incumbent Prime Minister. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own government led by a First Minister – The Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive.
The current population is estimated at just over 60million, with around 50million living in England, five million in Scotland, three million in Wales and two million in Northern Ireland. Pound sterling is the currency throughout the UK.
The UK has a rich cultural heritage, spanning literature, art, music and sport. It is currently the largest publisher of books in the world, with famous past writers including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. The UK has also been the home of some of music’s most popular acts – The Beatles, Queen and The Rolling Stones, for example. Modern bands such as Coldplay and Oasis have also enjoyed great success worldwide.
Although football is the main sport played in the UK, all four nations compete in many different sports. Rugby union, rugby league, cricket, tennis, golf and horse racing are all extremely popular and several major global sporting events are held there – for example, Wimbledon, the Grand National and the Open Championship.
The UK has many landmarks which attract a great number of tourists, including Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey and Edinburgh Castle.
Football in the United Kingdom
Football is the national sport in the United Kingdom and is a significant part of the national identity. England’s Premier League is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have professional leagues. England has four professional divisions and, in the FA Cup, has the oldest cup competition in world football. Celtic and Rangers’ Old Firm rivalry continues to capture the imagination in Scotland.
On the international scene, only England were present at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ but the other three nations have made positive strides in qualifying in recent years. Scotland have beaten France and Northern Ireland triumphed over current world and European champions Spain. The greatest moment any of the nations achieved was England’s FIFA World Cup victory on home soil in 1966. England also hosted the European Championships in 1996. The UK has several world class stadiums, including Wembley in London, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Hampden Park in Glasgow, which will all be used for the Olympic Games.
All four Football Associations from the countries in the United Kingdom also make up the International Football Association Board (IFAB) along with FIFA. IFAB meets twice annually to discuss current affairs in the game and consider potential changes to the rules of football.