31 million television viewers watched England lose to Italy on penalties in the postponed Euro 2020 football final. It was the biggest television audience in the United Kingdom for over two decades and one of the largest since records began. It shows the unique capability of television to unite a nation in hope and disappointment, whether they are watching a broadcast or viewing online.

An estimated average of 29.85 million viewers watched the match, which was shown on both the BBC and ITV, with the BBC accounting for 25 million viewers or around 80% of that audience.

The figures from Overnights.tv are based on initial audience estimates from the industry ratings organisation BARB.

The audience peaked at 30.95 million with the match drawn after extra time when it went to a penalty shoot-out.

The average audience beat the 25.2 million viewers to the West Germany semi-final match in the World Cup back in 1990, which also featured a loss on penalties for England.

In Italy, an estimated average of 18.20 million people watched the final, with a peak audience of 18.46 million.

The BBC said that there had been 6.9 million requests to view the match on its iPlayer, while ITV said it had 4.2 million requests on its Hub service.

The official audience figures may rise, when those that watched within seven days are taken into account.

“Once again sport has united a nation when we needed it most,” said Barbara Slater, the director of BBC Sport.

It makes it the highest TV audience since the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.

The record for the largest-ever television audience in the United Kingdom is still the 1966 World Cup final, which was watched by an estimated 32.3 million, although measurement methodologies have changed since then.

The third largest audience was for a documentary on the Royal Family, which was shown in June 1969 and watched by an estimated 30.69 million.

An audience of 30.15 million watched an episode of EastEnders in 1986, although that figure includes viewers of the repeat broadcast.

The audience for the England match against Italy was higher than the most recent record number of viewers, which was the 27.10 million who watched the Prime Minister announcing coronavirus restrictions in March 2020, shown across a number of channels, with 14.61 million watching on BBC One.