Battle of the TV ratings: Real men don’t watch football but prefer a bake off

Signs are that male viewing habits are changing – but Will Coldwell decided to do his own research

Do men really like baking more than football? That appears to be the case judging by television viewing figures from earlier this week showing that more and more men chose to tune in to Tuesday’s instalment of The Great British Bake Off than watch Arsenal’s Champions League qualifier against the Turkish side Fenerbahce.

According to the ratings analyst Attentional, 1.92 million men opted to spend their evening watching dough rise, as opposed to 1.72 million who chose the big, though predictable, match won 2-0 by Arsenal.

Along with fellow baking television chefs such as the Fabulous Baker Brothers and Jamie Oliver, the show’s co-judge Paul Hollywood appears to be inspiring more men to reach for their rolling pins and, it seems, give a little less attention to football in the process.

For Garry Hill, who recently founded the Cambourne Bake Club, a men-only baking group, it’s a sign that male habits are changing. “It just shows men are taking different interests and not following what the crowds might think,” he said.

“And you got a good role model in Paul Hollywood. The main reason I got into it is following his example. These days, men are out there trying to provide something different for their family and if they’re baking they could get a good idea from watching the Bake Off.”

Another passionate male baker is Chris Holmes, better known as “Mr Cake”, who drew widespread praise after he quit his job at Stansted airport by icing his resignation letter on to a passion-fruit sponge.

“To be honest, I’ve never been heavily into football,” he says. “I’ve always had more of an affinity to baking. I don’t know whether the people are defecting from football to baking, but if the numbers of people tuning in to football are falling maybe there’s something there.”

However, Mr Holmes is certain there is an increase in male participation with baking. “I think historically there’s been a bit of a stigma but I think that’s pretty much a thing of the past.”

Who watched what?

Daniel De Gallerie 

Environmental Services, 18

It depends who was playing. I’ve been playing football all my life but I only really follow it if it’s a big international. If I could choose between Arsenal or the Bake Off, it would be the Bake Off. My mum likes the show, too – we enjoy watching it together.

Richard Howlett

Solicitor, 40

Honestly, I don’t really like football. I’d probably go for cooking. I like cooking and I do all the cooking at our home. It’s more of a macho thing now; Gordon Ramsay swears a lot, Jamie Oliver is a bit of a lad. It’s all right.

Paul Miller

Pilot, 55

I’d probably choose the football. I find most cooking shows boring and formulaic. The kind of cooking shows I like are more traditional, like Rick Stein. I don’t like the competitive ones.

Hunain Nadeem

Student, 15

I watched the Bake Off this Tuesday. If it had been a match I cared about I would have watched it but most of the time it would be the baking show because I love Paul Hollywood. The cakes look really good – I look at them and salivate. And it’s cool to see men doing it – it makes you see there’s not such a gender gap with that kind of thing.

Tom Hutchinson

Student, 16

The Bake Off is so easygoing, you can just put your feet up. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I can never be bothered to watch football for the full 90 minutes either.