Sports tourism has emerged as a major contributor to Britain’s economy after it was revealed that 900,000 football fans visited the UK last year.
According to figures released by VisitBritain, the British tourism authority, visiting football fans spent a total of £706m, or £785 each during their trips. Football tourists are particularly lucrative to the economy as their average spend is £200 more than non-sporting visitors from overseas.
According to 40 percent of foreign fans surveyed, going to a game was the main reason for their visit, and while the overall visitor figure will have been boosted by Wembley Stadium hosting the 2011 Champions League Final, it is the UK Premier Leagues domestic stadiums that are proving the main attraction. The top ten grounds for attracting overseas fans were: Old Trafford, Anfield, the Emirates Stadium, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane, Wembley, Goodison Park, the Etihad Stadium, Upton Park and Villa Park.
The research was carried out by the Office of National statistics International Passenger Survey, and the results prompted VisitBritain to comment that football is a ‘highly effective tool’ for bringing visitors to Britain at some of the quieter times of the year.
Ireland provided the biggest influx of football tourists, with 174,000 visiting the UK to watch a match, followed by 80,000 from Norway, 61,000 from the United States, 54,000 from Spain and 48,000 from Germany.
Football is not the only sport to make an impression on Britain’s visitor figures. Major events like the Wimbledon tennis tournament, international cricket matches, major horseracing events and international golf tournaments all contributed to the 1.3 million sports tourists that spent a total of GBP1.1bn during 2011.
In its Foresight study on sporting travel, VisitBritain commented, ‘This is just the start of an extraordinary period for Britain hosting the world’s elite sportsmen and sportswomen, and of course those keen to come and support their efforts.
The Rugby League World Cup in 2013, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in 2014, the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2015, the World Athletics Championship in 2017 and the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 are all set to ensure that while the Olympic movement will be turning its attention to Brazil for the next summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, Britain will remain centre stage when it comes to sport.’