Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegames

Good news for athletics.

I am going to repeat that, because I like the sound of it, and, let's face it, there have not been millions of examples of this in the last few years.

So: Good news for athletics.

A YouGov survey has put track and field in front of football and tennis when it comes to which sports the British TV viewing public finds most thrilling to watch - and golf is deemed, by a fairway, the most boring.

Athletics seems to be doing particularly well given that, according to the data, 12 of the 17 sports mentioned were described as "boring" by a majority of those surveyed.

A total of 70 per cent of viewers who had watched golf on TV categorised it as "boring". Just to be clear, this category was subdivided into "quite boring" and "very boring". Look away, PGA…

A total of 18 per cent of those who had watched golf on TV found it "quite boring" and 52 per cent found it "very boring".

American Football was found to be the second most unpopular sport, being characterised as boring by 59 per cent of people who have ever watched it, followed closely by cricket at 58 per cent, darts, also at 58 per cent, and snooker at 57 per cent.

At the other end of things, as you might perhaps expect, football and tennis do well, with 43 per cent of those who have watched them finding them "exciting". Although football seems to polarise opinion dramatically, with 40 per cent stating that they find it boring. While we are on this branch line, of those who find football exciting, the figure for men is 56 per cent and for women 30 per cent; of those who find it boring, the respective figures are 30 per cent and 51 per cent.

But toppermost of the poppermost, to borrow the phrase of the dear departed John Lennon, is athletics. A total of 47 per cent of those who have watched it chose "thrilling" as the word they would use to describe it.

And the percentage who found athletics boring was just 28 per cent - the lowest figure of the 17 sports surveyed by the length of a finishing straight.

On the YouGov site, the YouGov Omnibus is described as "the perfect vehicle to quickly and cost-effectively find out people's opinions, attitudes and behaviours".

The description continues: "We have been independently acclaimed as the UK's most quoted research company - the YouGov brand ensures that our clients have a 'head start' in gaining high media visibility and adds both credibility and independence to results."

The sample size was 1,616 British adults, with the survey being conducted between November 29 and 30 last year.

Looking at the more detailed results, it becomes clear that athletics is one of six out of the 17 mentioned sports which gained a greater percentage of women rather than men rating it as exciting.

Usain Bolt, pictured after earning his last individual sprinting medal, a 100 metre bronze, at last summer's IAAF World Championships in London. Athletics came out best of 17 sports, including football, during a survey of British TV viewers ©Getty Images
Usain Bolt, pictured after earning his last individual sprinting medal, a 100 metre bronze, at last summer's IAAF World Championships in London. Athletics came out best of 17 sports, including football, during a survey of British TV viewers ©Getty Images

The relevant figure for athletics was men at 43 per cent and women at 52 per cent. The other five showing the same relative results were cycling, gymnastics, horse racing, swimming and tennis.

This is not the first good news to have winged its way over to track and field from the YouGov direction. In a poll taken during August 2016 before the Rio Games got underway, athletics was voted the sport that Olympic fans were most looking forward to watching that year, with 62 per cent placing it in their top five favourite sports.

Of course, you could take the view that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Actually I think someone already has.

But this survey looks reputable, and it is certainly interesting. The results, however, may not be as clear cut as they first appear - if those surveyed are TV viewers, it seems clear that the results will reflect, to a greater or lesser extent, the effectiveness of the way those sports have been televised. And perhaps also the ease with which those sports can be effectively televised.

Golf has a big and obvious problem here. Let's be honest - how would football be doing if you couldn't see the ball for 90 per cent of the time?

Another factor which may have been coming into play here is this - while there was a second version of the initial results recorded, "rebased to exclude those who have not watched the sport", that does not necessarily mean that all those who have watched the sport actually understand it.

American Football did badly in the YouGov survey of British TV viewers. But while they had watched it, how many of the respondents understood the game? ©Getty Images
American Football did badly in the YouGov survey of British TV viewers. But while they had watched it, how many of the respondents understood the game? ©Getty Images

Some sports are intrinsically more difficult to understand than others. American Football. How many UK viewers understand that beyond the basics of "the idea is to get a man with the ball over the line while the crash bang whallop stuff is going on all around him?"

In this respect, however, athletics scores again, due to its - broadly - obvious nature, particularly in terms of track events. (We’ll set aside the multi-events at this point - those finales desperately need tweaking so that the first to cross the line in the concluding race is the overall winner…)

However, as the sport begins to turn its mind once again to innovating its presentation - with another Nitro Athletics venture Down Under, scheduled now for some time after April's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, currently occupying mindspace within the higher echelons of the world governing body - this news will be welcome indeed.

No matter what convolutions are applied again in the Nitro experiment, the sport, and by extension those who present it at the BBC, are clearly getting a lot right.