As the Barclays Premier League kicks off again this week after a high-profile international break, new figures released by national tourism agency VisitBritain show that nearly one million overseas visitors watched a game of football here last year.
These 900,000 foreign football tourists spent a substantial £706 million, the equivalent of £785 per fan and £200 more than the average visitor.
VisitBritain joined forces with the English Premier League back in 2008 to help promote the home of football in key overseas tourism markets using links to – and testimonials from - Premier League players and clubs.
This partnership both builds interest in Britain and inspires fans to visit.
Around 40 per cent of foreign fans going to a football match said that watching sport was the main reason for visiting the UK.
The research also suggests that football works as a highly effective tool in enticing visitors to Britain at some of the quieter times of the year, with the greatest proportion of inbound visitors going to a football match between January and March.
Holiday visitors from Norway have the highest propensity to include ‘going to a football match’ (one-in-thirteen), followed by visits from the UAE.
The markets generating the highest numbers of football spectating visits in 2011 were; Ireland (174,000), Norway (80,000), USA (61,000), Spain (54,000) and Germany (48,000).
Mexico, Sweden and Iceland also featured highly in the category of ‘highest chance of going to a game’.
Football also encourages visitors to explore beyond London.
The Premier League grounds attracting the largest number of overseas fans are in the North West.
Nearly 20 per cent of visitors who came here to see a game went to Old Trafford, followed closely by Anfield.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain said: “The Premier League is known as the most international and exciting league in the world, supported by fans across the globe who want to find out more about their favourite players, come and see them play and explore their local areas.”
“Our partnership with the Premier League not only highlights the value of sports tourism to the UK economy, but it also helps drive inbound visits by inspiring travel to the UK at traditionally quieter times of the year.”
VisitBritain has used its partnership with the Premier League to film international players such as Sandro, Tim Howard and Brede Hangeland talking about where they love in Britain – the films can be found here.