Inbound football tourism research

With all the sports Britain has to offer, it is the chance to experience a live football match which attracts the largest volume of inbound visitors.

We sponsored a question in the Office for National Statistics’ International Passenger Survey for 2014. The results showed that slightly more than 800,000 inbound visitors went to a football match – almost one in every 43 visitors. This figure is up from around 750,000 in 2010. 

Popular markets

Red and blue infographic displaying the top five markets who watch live football in Britain top 5 include Irish Republic, Norway, Sweden, USA, Netherlands

The table below shows the markets generating the most live-football-watching visitors. However propensity to watch live football shows a different list with Norway leading at 11% of all visits featuring football watching; Malta and Thailand (both 9%) finish off the top three. 

Of the visitors who gave their primary journey purpose to the UK to ‘watch sport,’ almost three quarters attended a football match, confirming out of the live sports on offer in Britain, it’s football that is attracting the largest volume of inbound visitors. 


Visits including live football

Market Visits including live football
Irish Republic 121,000 Spain 39,000
Norway 93,000 France 35,000
Sweden 58,000 Germany 34,000
USA 53,000 Denmark 33,000
Netherlands 43,000 Australia 32,000

Spend and duration

Average spend per visit for football spectators is £855 whereas those who didn’t attend a match had an average spend of £628. The group with the highest attendance is males aged 25-34 with a total close to 160,000. Although two-in-five of those going to a football match were visiting just to ‘watch sport’, over 40,000 international business visitors also managed to find the time to go to a football match during their stay.

There is a wide variation in visit duration, depending on the main journey purpose. Visitors whose primary motivation for visiting is to ‘watch sport’ stay in Britain for an average duration of 2.5 nights. The average trip duration of business visitors who attend a football match is more than twice the length of business visitors who don’t attend a football match.

Regional spread

Red and blue infographic displaying top three regions for football visits North West England, North East England and Wales

It has been found that not only does football encourage visitors to come to Britain, but it encourages them to explore different parts of Britain such as North West England and Wales. 


% of visits including live football

Region % of visits including live football
North West England 10.8% Scotland 2.0%
North East England 5.6% East Midlands 1.9%
Wales 2.5% East of England 1.5%
Yorkshire 2.4% South West England 1.4%
London 2.2% South East England 1.3%
West Midlands 2.1%    

A follow up question in the survey regarding the stadia visited helps us see what is attracting visitors to certain regions. Responses showed that Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium had the highest attendance of 109,000 inbound visitors. 

Our report on football tourism in Britain (PDF, 1.52MB) covers the profile of international visitors who attended football matches during their stay.