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Football's boost to tourism in the UK on the rise

20 Oct 2021
photos for VisitBritain release Man Utd fans

VisitBritain research shows that 1.5m visits to the UK in 2019 included watching a live match

New research has shown the increasing importance of football and the Premier League in driving tourism to the United Kingdom. 

The "Football Tourism in the UK" report by national tourism agency VisitBritain shows that there were 1.5million visits to the UK in 2019 which included watching a live football match. This was up 66 per cent on when the research was last conducted in 2011, when there were 909,000 visits.

Football tourists spending more

Overseas visitors who came to the UK in 2019 and watched a football match spent £1.4billion in total during their trips, up 84 per cent on 2011.

It is not just leisure visitors who enjoyed football matches. Out of the 1.5million who went to a fixture during their stay, 94,000 were international business visitors.

Football also took the top spot in 2019 as the most popular live sporting event for international tourists to the UK. 

photos for VisitBritain release Anfield fans
Anfield was the second-most popular destination among visitors wanting to see a match in 2019
'Football is a massive draw' 

Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "Our national game is a massive draw for visitors that want to come and watch top-class football from some of the best leagues in the world.

"Football tourists boost local economies during the off-peak tourism season supporting restaurants, hotels and hospitality venues.

"I will continue to work closely with VisitBritain, the Premier League and the EFL to keep up this momentum."

Old Trafford and Anfield popular

Looking at visits to specific stadiums, Manchester United's Old Trafford and Liverpool's Anfield attracted the most people from overseas, drawing 226,000 and 213,000 spectators respectively. 

Visitors' most-popular stadiums (2019)
Stadium Visits Visitors' spend (£m)
Old Trafford 226,000 £225m
Anfield 213,000 £152m
Emirates Stadium 189,000 £269m
Wembley 122,00 £133m
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 114,000 £114m
Stamford Bridge 107,000 £129m
Etihad Stadium 87,000 £63m
London Stadium 65,000 £56m

*Numbers should be regarded as indicative rather than exact

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said: "The Premier League and its clubs provide competitive football, featuring the world's best players and managers, in front of brilliant fans.

"We are very proud of the positive impact the League has on both national and local economies. 

"Seeing the competition in action is fantastic and we look forward to welcoming more international visitors to our stadiums in the future."

Irish visitors No 1 

The top three markets from which the football-watching visitors came in 2019 were Ireland, with 175,000 visits, followed by Germany (126,000) and the US (113,000).

The economic impact made by those who watch a match during their visit is shown by the fact that more than half also took time to see the UK's monuments and buildings, while almost three-quarters included a restaurant meal.

"We are very proud of the positive impact the League has on both national and local economies"

Premier League CEO Richard Masters

Driving tourism outside peak seasons

Football also helps to drive inbound tourism outside the peak travel seasons. Almost two-thirds of trips took place in January-March or October-December. 

"This research demonstrates the huge draw and increasingly valuable role of live football in attracting international visitors to Britain," said VisitBritain chief executive Sally Balcombe.

"It also cements the importance of football in driving regional tourism by encouraging visitors to explore different parts of Britain and its effectiveness in driving growth across the shoulder seasons, boosting local economies.

"We will continue to harness the global interest in football as international travel reopens, helping drive back demand for travel to Britain, from our long-standing partnership with the Premier League to content partnerships in our overseas markets and global promotion through our digital channels."

VisitBritain has been promoting football tourism to the UK for more than a decade through its partnership with the Premier League and the UK Government's Football is GREAT Britain campaign. 

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