'It will put the city on the map' - Sheffield prepares to cash in on Blades' Premier League success story

Sheffield could see a £10 million windfall from the Blades’ promotion to the Premier League, academic experts have predicted.

Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 5:26 pm
Updated Monday, 19th August 2019, 3:16 pm

Football finance expert Dr Rob Wilson from Sheffield Hallam University said extra investment will flow into the city from more away fans using bars and hotels as well as home fans spending more on matchdays.

But in addition to the boost to the city’s economy, Dr Wilson said the city’s international profile will skyrocket, with big potential impacts for the city’s universities and even on its traditional heavy industries.

The Star revealed in May that the sum including cash received by the club for getting into the top flight, and TV rights was £125 million.

Sheffield United fans celebrate their promotion to the Premier League at Sheffield Town Hall

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He said: “If you want to put a city on the map there are few better ways of doing it than having Premier League football.

“In terms of direct investment you will see a lot more sport tourists coming to the city rather than the day-trippers who tend to follow Championship teams. They will all be spending money in the city’s bars and restaurants.”

Sheffield United’s first home Premier League game in 12 years will take place tomorrow when Crystal Palace visit Bramall Lane.

Between now and next May, the Blades will play 19 home Premier League games against some of the biggest teams in the world – all of whom bring thousands of travelling supporters with them.

Billy Sharp of Sheffield United celebrates scoring a goal during the Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth. Picture date: 10th August 2019. Picture credit should read: James Wilson/Sportimage

“The first weekend there will be a carnival atmosphere and the club will put on a bit of show,” said Dr Wilson.

“This will probably mean a spike in expenditure and increased trade around Bramall Lane with fans maybe spending a bit more than they would at a normal match.

“In terms of longer term impacts, Leicester as a city has repositioned itself internationally and has grown in popularity in the Far East. It’s no surprise that United are trying to leverage that global audience by putting a Chinese brand on the shirts.

“From our point of view as a university, I would expect us to benefit from the increased exposure and we would expect to see the city be able to capitalise on that higher profile as well.

Dr Rob Wilson.

“I would be disappointed if the city council didn’t try to make hay while the sun shines.”

And with the city’s other team currently riding high in the Championship, Dr Wilson said with two clubs in the top division, the city would see even greater riches.

“If a city has two teams in the Premier League you would expect to see more than double the benefit,” he added.

Sheffield Central MP and Blades fan Paul Blomfield said the promotion offered Sheffield a great ‘opportunity’ to promote itself.

Paul Blomfield

He said: “The Premier League brand resonates around the world in every continent so having a Premier League team in the city puts Sheffield on the map.

“It does an enormous amount to boost people’s awareness of the city and we need to use that opportunity to show what a great city Sheffield is and not just for football.

“It’s not just a great city for business, it’s a great city to study in and it’s a great city to live in.”

Mr Blomfield said he had been following United for more than 50 years and said the team was ‘back where they belonged’.

He added: “We were a top-flight team when I first started following them in the 1960s and there’s been plenty of ups and downs along the way but it’s just just brilliant.

“All credit has to go to Chris Wilder who has done an amazing job with what resources he had available to him.”

Wendy Ulyett, Welcome to Sheffield’s tourism manager, revealed earlier this year that Sheffield attracted 17.2 million visitors per year, with more than two million of those staying overnight, but added she was hoping that figure would increase given United’s Premier League return.

She said: “We started to look at where fans may come from and what we need to be telling them about what a great city it is.

“What we hope as the season goes on is that the visiting fans will celebrate or commiserate, depending on how the matches go, in Sheffield and get a feel for the city.”

The visit of Crystal Palace on Sunday will be followed by a game against 2016 champions Leicester City next Saturday.

Last year’s runners up and European champions Liverpool will visit on September 28, Arsenal on October 21, Manchester United on November 23, reigning champions Manchester City on January 21, 2020 and Tottenham and Chelsea in April 2020.

Ms Ulyett said: “It’s very much about the profile that the games will bring Sheffield as the number of fans will probably be around the same but they’re from different areas.

“We may also get a number of international fans visiting too. Ideally, what we would like the fans to do is spend more time here and consider coming back here when there isn’t a football match.”

Ms Ulyett said it was ‘difficult’ to put a definitive value on United’s promotion but added it won’t just be the Blades’ faithful who are celebrating should the club secure its top-flight status come the end of the season in May.

She added: “It will also get people talking about Sheffield which is value in itself and that’s something you can’t really put a price on.”