The summer of sport in the UK is well underway, with the Wimbledon championship in its second week and England having navigated the first cricket test against South Africa with a resounding victory. The British & Irish Lions even drew the test series against the All Blacks and hopes are high of Andy Murray winning a third Wimbledon title and Johanna Konta making it her first Wimbledon win. But how does success in sport affect the UK Economy?
The interesting thing about the British is that even during tough economic times, we will pay serious money for live sporting events. The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics are evidence of that, with income from them topping £2.4bn. In football, Manchester United draw in excess of £300m per year, with such clubs contributing to their local economies as a result of the increased spending in local businesses generated by those attending the games. In rugby union, the Six Nations tournament continues to be a massive draw, with the highest average number of spectators per game than any other sport – in 2017, the tournament drew 72,000 spectators per match. In a 2011 report carried out for Mastercard by the Centre for the International Business of Sport at Coventry University, it was found that the positive economic impact of the Six Nations tournament across the competing nations was £420.94m (including £88.38m in England, £72.5m in Wales and £62.9m in Scotland). This spend was made in local bars, shops, restaurants, hotels, transport and inside the stadiums, plus increased footfall nationally in pubs and restaurants who showed the games.
Live cricket delivers similar benefits – the Australia Ashes Test at Headingley in 2009 resulted in the Leeds economy benefiting to the tune of more than £1.2m per day, when more than 32,000 additional people visited the city, accounting for around £3.7m additional spend in the local economy (report by Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Yorkshire Forward). Nottinghamshire commissioned a similar study into the benefits of hosting matches at the World Twenty20 the following year, which claimed that £12.1m of additional income was generated in the East Midlands.
Wimbledon is, however, the star of the show. The reported figures to end July 2014 showed a profit of £56.1m for the Lawn Tennis Association and despite criticisms that investment continues to be inadequate at grass roots level, Wimbledon is a prime example that major sporting events tend to be recession-proof. The success of Andy Murray and the rise and rise of Johanna Konta keeps interest high – the event drew 39,000 visitors per day last year, many thousands of whom travelled from outside London and queued overnight for a chance of seeing their favourite tennis star. So, live sporting events certainly deliver profit and increased income to the economy but they also deliver something else which, in these Brexit times, is difficult to find – the adrenalin and feel good factor associated with the efforts and success of our home grown heroes. As a nation of sport supporters, the evidence shows that we will continue to spend on these events even when we are required to tighten our belts in other areas.