As football fans eagerly await the next round of the Barclays Premier League fixtures this weekend, new figures from VisitBritain released today reveal the increasing value to the economy of international visitors attending football matches in Britain.
VisitBritain’s research report, Football tourism scores for Britain, shows that the 800,000 international visitors to Britain last year who went to a football match spent a total of £684 million during their time in the country. This represents a 15% rise – or an increase of £89 million – compared to when the research was last conducted in 2010. While the overall global average spend on an international visit to Britain in 2014 was £636, those visits including football match attendance had an average spend of £855. In 2010 this was £776, when the total spend was £595 million across 750,000 visits.
It’s not just leisure visitors that enjoy football matches; out of the 800,000 total, more than 40,000 international business visitors went to a football match during their stay last year.
The research highlights the mass international appeal of Premier League football and its increasingly valuable role as a global draw for visitors to Britain. The 2015/16 football season will be the eighth year of VisitBritain’s non-commercial partnership with the Premier League, which encourages visitors from all over the world to travel to Britain and enjoy a Premier League football match with the Football is GREAT campaign.
The findings show that football is the number one sporting draw for international tourists to Britain. Of those visitors who gave their primary journey purpose to the UK as ‘watching sport,’ 73% said they had attended a football match. Around 40% of those going to a football match said that watching sport was the main reason for visiting the UK.
The research also demonstrates football’s effectiveness in enticing international visitors to Britain at quieter times of the year and encouraging visitors from overseas to explore different parts of Britain. The North West of England continues to be the region receiving the highest proportion of football-driven visits from overseas, with 1-in-10 to the area including attendance at a football match, followed by more than 1-in-20 visits to the North East. International visitors to Wales saw 1-in-40 attend live football, just ahead of Yorkshire.
Looking at visits to specific stadiums, Old Trafford in Manchester and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London were neck and neck, both receiving 109,000 international visits. Since the research was last conducted in 2010, Emirates has overtaken Anfield as the second most popular stadium, with a 24% increase in international supporters. Wembley’s popularity has grown significantly, with visits more than doubling since 2010.
Topping the international league table for visitors who attended a football match was the Irish Republic, with 121,000. Australia ranks in the top ten with 32,000 Aussie visitors attending a football match during 2014.
VisitBritain chief executive Sally Balcombe said: “Our ambition is to convert the global interest in football and the Barclays Premier League into even more international visits to all regions across Britain. We’ll do this by continuing to target consumers in key markets around the world with our Football is GREAT campaign and showcasing the key destinations that are home to the Premier League clubs, such as the North East, North West, Midlands, London and Wales.”
Richard Scudamore, Premier League Executive Chairman, added: “The Premier League is proud of its role in promoting Britain across the world. There are 1.2 billion people across the globe who are fans of the League and we want to engage with as many of them as possible. In the last 18 months alone we have taken the Barclays Premier League Live experience to Johannesburg and Mumbai, while in July in Singapore we held our most successful ever Barclays Asia Trophy.
“There is though something special about being part of the live action on a match day and it’s very encouraging to see more visitors coming to Britain wanting to experience the Premier League.”
Tourism Minister, UK, Tracey Crouch, said: “Britain is home to many of the world’s favourite football clubs so it’s no surprise that more and more international visitors are going to football games while they are here. Millions of overseas tourists visit the UK every year and most take in the sights of London. But Britain has so much more to offer so it’s fantastic to see the positive role football is playing in showcasing key destinations in many different regions of the UK. It’s great for local economies, great for football and great for the UK’s tourism industry.”
All of VisitBritain’s Football is GREAT activity promotes the destinations behind the Barclays Premier League with regular digital and social media activity taking place throughout the season to highlight the tourism offer in key football regions, such as Wales, the North West, North East, Midlands and London.