Male obsession with sport '˜dates back to cavemen'
And the study suggests men will always be more interested than women in games and other sporting activities - no matter how much money the authorities throw at it.
The researchers argue the under-representation of women in sport - both as participants and spectators - reflects their lesser interest, not fewer opportunities for involvement.
The study, published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences, shows that, in every society with available data, males participate in sports at least twice as often as females in terms of both frequency and duration.
The researchers also considered why humans would have evolved dispositions to be interested in sports, focusing on how they could have affected the likelihood of survival and reproduction.
They came up with two theories which are relevant for both males and females.
One focuses on the importance of needing to ally with coalitions in between-group contexts, while the other emphasises the need to develop social and motor skills.
Another theory, which applies chiefly to males, suggests people compete in sports to gain status.
And this also suggests non-participants monitor sports performances so they can evaluate potential rivals and allies.
A fourth theory is that sports display people’s qualities to the opposite sex, which could explain some aspects of females’ sports interest.
Study co-author Doctor Robert Deaner, a psychologist of Grand Valley State University in the US, said: “This sex difference occurs in all societies described thus far, from hunters and gatherers to large contemporary societies.
“Although it is often assumed socialisation practices entirely cause this sex difference, the evidence that socialisation plays a role remains equivocal.
“In particular, no experimental manipulation or systematic historical comparison has ever shown a decrease in the sex difference. Moreover, several studies indicate that prenatal hormones contribute to males’ greater sports interest.
“These points challenge the bedrock assumptions of many scholars and policy makers.”