The Evening News rightly gave big prominence last week to the report from Enterprise Manchester on the benefits of football to the Greater Manchester economy.
No-one was surprised that football helps create jobs and wealth. What was a surprise was the scale. 11 million tickets were sold for the London Olympics. 3.1m were sold by premiership clubs in 2011/12. That’s like an Manchester Olympics every four years. Football supports 8,500 jobs. It’s a Manchester growth industry.
The news that football brings in £330 million to the Greater Manchester economy every year is as astonishing as it is exciting. The report estimates that the worldwide exposure United over the past 20 years to Manchester is the equivalent of £1bn worth of advertising! Last year alone, City and United gained Manchester some £100m worth of advertising for the City. That helps tourism and creates more jobs. Last year, some United had 114,000 international visitors to Old Trafford. Some 500,000 visited the Football Museum, nearly triple the number who attended Urbis, and nearly five times the number who visited it in Preston.
Last season’s premiership deciding derby at the Etihad had viewing figures of 600 million, and the TV rights for the premiership go for £1.4bn per year, over double the £600m that the Italian, German or Spanish League received.
As a Man City season ticket holder for the last 29 years, I have seen the evolution of the club first hand. When City won the Premier League in 2012, it spelled a new era of football dominance in Manchester, with the two local clubs battling for the top prize in English football. This dominance does not look set to change, as the Manchester clubs leave the others trailing in the Premier League this season.
One of the reasons Manchester does so well, I believe, is our modern cultural heritage. I grew up listening to bands like the Smiths, Stone Roses and Oasis. This, coupled with our famous nightlife, has put Manchester on the musical atlas. This city also boasts top museums and concert venues and the arts scene is thriving. Yet, whilst the vibrant music and arts scene continues to thrive and grow today, what is happening in Premier League football is unprecedented.
Over 3 billion pounds has been spent for the rights to show games over the next three seasons, TV contracts in Asia and America now exceed $250m, and a global audience of 600 million people in over 200 countries worldwide, all whilst the two teams from Manchester top the table.
The two clubs are reacting to this huge exposure. Manchester United’s global intensions were indicated in 2012 when the club floated £600m of shares on the New York stock exchange. United are one of the world’s most financially valuable club, in one report worth over £700m more than 2nd place NFL team Dallas Cowboys. Manchester City Council have just okayed Manchester City application for their self-funded £170m training facility, named the Etihad Campus, which will regenerate a large area of land to the East of the city with a new Sixth-Form College and leisure facilities, creating more new jobs.
The Middlebrook development in Bolton, in which the Reebok Stadium is located, is yet another example of a successful collaboration between the club, businesses and the local community.
So we have a lot to thank the beautiful game for. The report shows us that football makes us fitter, creates jobs, helps market the city and encourages tourism. Clubs do some great work reaching out to some of the poorest in the community.
Now if we can help sustain the clubs at the bottom, like Bury, and stop the FA Cup final being in London at 5.15pm, I’ll be a happy man.