Irish soccer fans spent €100m in UK
IRISH SOCCER fans are proving to be remarkably resilient in the face of recession. While the numbers travelling to Britain to watch football are down from the height of the boom, almost 200,000 people still spent close to €100 million cheering on their favourite teams in the English Premier League last year, according to figures from the British tourism authority.
VisitBritain, the UK’s state tourism agency, said the number of visits made by Irish fans to English soccer stadiums increased in 2011, with 174,000 fans crossing the Irish Sea to cheer on their team compared with 164,000 the previous year.
The Irish are the most likely overseas visitors to be found in English soccer grounds when Saturday comes, although a similar survey at the height of the boom in 2008 found 267,000 Irish fans attended at least one soccer match in Britain.
All told, the Irish accounted for one in five soccer fans who visited an English Premier League ground from overseas last year.
VisitBritain said the 900,000 foreign football tourists spent £706 million (€865 million), an average of about £785 (€962) per fan per visit.
The averages are high because of the number of visitors from the United States and Asia but even if the typical Irish spend is half that average, the total outlay from Irish soccer fans ran to €78 million in 2011.
Unsurprisingly, Old Trafford remained the top choice of international football fans last year, followed by Anfield, the Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge.
White Hart Lane, Wembley, Goodison Park, the Etihad Stadium, Upton Park and Villa Park were the other stadiums in order of popularity.
Soccer is not the only draw for Irish sports fans. VisitBritain also identified rugby union and horse racing as being almost the preserve of the Irish.