It’s not only Manchester United’s fans who have reason to thank former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, for the club’s glory years. According to research from the New Economy think tank, it estimates that the club’s lengthy success on the field was directly responsible for adding value to the local economy that totalled over £1bn.
Manchester United have now been joined as a global ambassador for the region by arch rival Manchester City and, together, the two teams are now acting as magnets for both tourism and investment. Overseas fans have always felt the need to make the trip up North so as to see their heroes’ stadiums (or better still, see them play in a live match) but Manchester City’s plans now include a £1bn public-private partnership that will see it build 6,000 new homes as part of its stadium redevelopment.
Almost 11 per cent of foreign visitors to the North East take in a live football match, compare to just 2 per cent visiting London. And those that do attend a match subsequently spend on average £855 in the region compared to £628 for those that don’t. Clearly, its not just replica football kits that they come away with.
Foreign fans are clearly besotted by the Manchester clubs, so much so that several former Manchester United players (including Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville) have clubbed together and part funded a £24 million, 10-storey Hotel Football that now overlooks Old Trafford. (We think we can guess what the hotel duvets look like!)
Liverpool FC’s £260 million regeneration of its Anfield site is having a similarly knock on effect on the local economy, which will benefit from a new £10m hotel and business centre.
But spare a thought for other large Northern cities whose football clubs clearly aren’t playing their part in the Northern Powerhouse project. Leeds FC dropped out of the Premier League over 12 years ago and both Sheffield teams have been long gone too.
As this year’s Barclays Premier League draws to a close, we’ll know soon whether Newcastle and (or) Sunderland are going to be relegated too. With so much at stake, it won’t just be their fans that will be cheering them on, but business leaders and tourist chiefs as well.