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 and over 40,000 international business visitors also managed to find time to go to a football match during thier stay.

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

While the Irish Republic leads the way in terms of the market generating the most football watching visits to the UK, Norway takes the top spot when considering propensity to go to a live football match at 11% of all visits featuring football watching.  The average spend per visit for football spectators in 2014 was £855 whereas those who didn't attend a match had an average spend of £628.

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

Regional spread

Not only does football encourage visitors to come to Britain, but it encourages them to explore different parts of Britian.  In 2017 the top region was the North West with 11%, followed by the North East (6%) and Wales (3%).  A follow up question in the survey regarding the stadia visited showed that Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium had the highest attendance of 109,000 inbound visitors. 

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

Our report on football tourism in Britain (PDF, 1.52MB) covers the profile of international visitors who attended football matches during their stay. Published Septmeber 2015.