Liverpool has ranked as the UK's Greatest Sporting City for 2017, according to research from ESPN and the University of Bath.
Propelled by a maiden Premier League Asia Trophy title for Liverpool FC, the city topped the ranking after scoring highly in many of the 12 factors that fans identified as key to a great sporting city, including Community (4th), Social (4th), Choice (2nd), Venues (3rd), and History (3rd).
Behind Liverpool, Manchester remains in second and London in third. Last year's winning city, Leicester, fell to 12th this year, mirroring Leicester City FC's performance in the Premier League, where they also finished in 12th just one season after their shock title win.
Peter Moore, Chief Executive Officer, Liverpool Football Club said: "It is no surprise that Liverpool has been named as the UK's greatest sporting city in ESPN's research. Liverpool is an incredible city with a rich sporting heritage and filled with the most passionate fans in the world.
"We at Liverpool Football Club celebrate our 125th anniversary this year - a significant milestone that we're all immensely proud of. Although we are famous for being a great footballing city, our sporting prowess goes much wider - producing a host of successful athletes, boxers, cricketers, golfers, snooker players - the list is endless.
"The city of Liverpool is built on determination to succeed, unfaltering ambition and, most importantly, an incredible sense of community. The award is well-deserved recognition, not only for our city and its sporting heroes but for sports fans across the city."
Everton manager Ronald Koeman said: "This is great for the city of Liverpool and it's great for Everton and Evertonians. Not only have we a great tradition and history, of which we are really proud, but we have real ambition, too. We are excited about the future and we are happy to share in this honour for the city."
Completing the top five are a Yorkshire duo, with Leeds in fourth, moving up a place after finishing fifth in the past two years of the study, followed by Sheffield, which has jumped 13 places up the rankings from 18th.
At the other end of the list, Blackpool has the unwanted honour of ranking last out of the 49 cities for a third consecutive year, while Ipswich falls to its lowest position, 48th. Swindon is 47th and Middlesbrough has dropped 26 places to 46th making it the biggest faller in the list.
Joe Anderson, Liverpool Mayor said: "Liverpool has a proud sporting history and to be recognised internationally for this is a great honour. Our vision for the Commonwealth Games is to make the entire UK proud of Liverpool, and it is special to know that fans up and down the country already respect our sporting prestige."
While Brian Barwick, Liverpool 2022 bid chair added: "For Liverpool to be recognised as the UK's number one sports city is fantastic news, not only for our Commonwealth Games bid but for our city. If we win the honour of staging the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the CGF and Government will know that it is bringing it to a city that is dynamic, sports mad and fun to be in."
ESPN also divided the research into individual sports to reveal the best places to be a fan of football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league. Liverpool also claims the title of best city to be a football fan, with Leeds maintaining its position as the best city for both cricket and rugby league fans, while Bath has overtaken Cardiff as the top town for rugby union lovers.
Mike Rush, St Helens RFC's Chief Executive said: "It is great news that Liverpool has been awarded the UK's Greatest Sporting City. The sporting heritage of this region is clear for all to see with great local, national and international support for its clubs. It is a renowned city for sporting talent and we are pleased to play a part in that.
"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" Assistant Professor Thomas Curran, University of Bath
"St Helens has always been one of the foremost clubs in world sport and our success is based not only on loyal support but the local talent we nurture and bring through the ranks and our interaction with the community. Local children want to play for the Saints, and I know that is also the case at Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere to name but a few. That connection runs deep and I'm pleased it has been recognised in this way."
The north of the UK continues to dominate the top of the list with four of the top five, and seven northern cities listed in the top ten. East Anglia is the worst-performing region - its highest placing city is Norwich, at 21st in the overall rankings, followed by Peterborough in 41st and Ipswich second last in 48th.
The biggest climber in the list is Bath, which moved up 23 places to 18, driven by an impressive performance in a key factor - it secured the top overall ranking in fan Value for Money.
As part of the research, ESPN asked fans to rank 12 factors that help make up a great sporting city. Those factors were then each given respective weightings to apply to each city's results. This year, fans ranked Value for Money as the most important factor, with 20 percent of fans saying it was the most important factor, while 17 percent of fans said a city's Matchday Atmosphere was the most important. Club Success for a city's professional teams received 15% of fan votes.
Commenting on the research, Assistant Professor Thomas Curran, University of Bath, said: "We're now in the third year of the research, and the 2017 rankings offer an interesting set of new results. Liverpool pipped Manchester to the title this year, and the gap between the top two was just half a point - the smallest winning margin we've seen. It's a deserved victory for Liverpool after it placed fourth last year, and made the leap to top spot this year thanks to strong performances in a variety of factors."
Steven Saunders, Senior Editor of ESPN.co.uk, said: "Congratulations to Liverpool on becoming ESPN's Greatest Sporting City for 2017. It's a really impressive result to fend off competition from powerhouses such as London and Manchester. There seems to be a really positive atmosphere for the city at the moment, with Everton and Liverpool looking stronger than they have in years, Tranmere and St Helens doing well, and the bid for the Commonwealth Games gathering momentum."