How Sheffield United's promotion to the Premier League can boost the city's economy

Sheffield United's return to the Premier League after a 12 year break has been hailed as great news for the city.

By Lee Peace
Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 9:21 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 3:56 pm

For our latest Sheffield Telegraph Voices feature we asked those in the know what the Blades' promotion could mean economically for the city.

Diane Jarvis, manager of Sheffield BID - a group of businesses who look at ways to improve the city centre.

The promotion of Sheffield United to the Premier League will undeniably provide an economic boost to Sheffield, and the city centre.

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Sheffield BID manager Diane Jarvis.

Recently, I saw a sport finance analyst at Hallam University estimating it could be worth around £5 million per season to the wider city.

Attendances at Bramall Lane are expected to be close to capacity throughout the coming season, as Premier League teams tend to sell out their away support allocation, unlike many lower league teams.

With the stadium located adjacent to the city centre, fans are far more likely to be drawn into the city centre. This influx of fans can have a big impact before and after the match – spending money in our shops, bars and restaurants.

Overnight stays are also typically higher in cities with a Premier League team. Each match almost becomes a sole event, which will see more fans travelling in from further afield to make a day of it and stay overnight. This means significant opportunities for city centre hotels.

Dr John Wilson, of the University of Sheffield's Management School.

With greater footfall expected in the city centre, the role Sheffield BID becomes even more significant.

Through our functions such as the clean team, street rangers, a dedicated police sergeant and tackling anti-social behaviour, we are committed to helping create an inviting and welcoming city centre for everyone to enjoy – be it families, sports fans, students, workers or visitors.

The Premier League is a truly global brand and provides a great opportunity to raise the profile of our city. We are the true ‘Home of Football’, boasting the oldest football club in the world with Sheffield FC. If we can tap into that heritage, we could see some genuine long-term tourist benefits.

The BID will be exploring new ways to encourage visitors to spend time and money in the city centre through football-related initiatives. We need to, and we will, ensure that the boost from Premier League football only adds to the vibrancy of the city centre, and we see a bustling and fun atmosphere on match days.

Richard Wright.

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Dr John Wilson, of the University of Sheffield's Management School

The economic benefits are largely based around three main areas: match day, broadcast and commercial – in each of these areas SUFC are likely to grow their income. Broadcast fees, in particular, should be much higher with income of approximately £100 million.

In 2016-17, The English Premier League had a record revenue of £4.5 billion and the average revenue for a Premier League club was £228 million (Deloitte, 2018). This revenue stream had an impact on the wider community; when Swansea City were promoted to the Premiership local spending increased due to higher numbers of home and away fans adding £58.6 million GVA and providing an additional 420 jobs in Wales. The promotion of SUFC to the Premier League will have a marked impact on the local economy.

Dan Bathie

The impact on Sheffield should be substantial. There will be increased spending on merchandise, hotels, bars, restaurants etc.

The international appeal of the Premier League is powerful with the Premier League (2019) stating that 900 million homes in 190 countries view games. Visit Britain (2015) reported that more than 800,000 overseas visitors went to a football match in 2014 and spent £684 million during their visit to Britain. Furthermore, the average spend of these visitors was £855, substantially higher than the average tourist spend of £628. Spending by football spectators is not only consumed by tickets and merchandise, they also spend on travel, accommodation, food, etc.

This will put Sheffield on the map.

A 2009 report on the impact of the snooker championships identified that the economic impact spread across numerous areas including accommodation, food and drink. In particular, visitor perceptions of the city were high with 21 per cent rating it excellent and 57 per cent good (Sport Industry Research Centre, 2009: iii). During the BBC’s 126 hours of coverage ‘Crucible Theatre’ was mentioned 464 times and ‘Sheffield’ 170 times.

It is now widely acknowledged that Sheffield is the home of football and it is important that we build on this across the city to encourage visitors to see, stay and spend. For this we need to give them more reasons to stay longer including statues celebrating Sheffield’s football heritage, an enhanced Sheffield Home of Sheffield heritage app; a football heritage exercise trail; a sign at the railway station welcoming people to the home of football; a visitor centre etc.

Sheffield Local Enterprise Partnership has objectives to grow the visitor economy and increase employment by 4,800 net new jobs – SUFC’s promotion is a great opportunity to build on this if the LEP opens its pockets.

The universities will also benefit in terms of visibility – many international students learn about Sheffield as a result of football and Sheffield’s unique football heritage. SUFC’s success if a great opportunity for all dimensions of the city to boost their national and international presence.

It would be even better if Sheffield Wednesday got automatic promotion at the end of next season. Steel City derbies in the Premier League would be fantastic.

It is a tremendous achievement for them, and particularly for the manager and chairman who are life-long fans. Kevin McCabe in particular has put so much into the club over a lot of years and really deserves this.

Presumably United’s first goal will be to establish themselves in the Premier League over the longer term. They will garner obvious financial rewards from promotion, a proportion of which will filter down into the city through employment, education programmes, subcontracts etc but, as a city, we should not expect anything else. If they manage to achieve that they have definitely done their job for themselves, and for the city.

The fact is there are plenty of other benefits that the city can gain from this, but they will be so much more about what the city does, and not what the club does. I’ve read a number of reports about what promotion means financially to a city and there are some widely ranging projections.

Stoke talked about circa £130m but that included income to the Club itself so possibly the wider value to the city would be much less than that. The biggest goal for the city is to covert opportunity into real financial benefits.

Sheffield United games will be played all over the world. A lot of people will watch them, and a significant proportion will ask “Where is this Sheffield, what does it do, and would I want to visit?” A lot of people probably already have!

First, a simple challenge – have we made it easy for them to answer those questions? Have we developed a website for the city that is easy to access so potential visitors are just a few clicks away from finding out more?

We are talking about potential students, potential visitors and potential investors. We must engage them quickly and easily.

Without it we will be at the bottom of the financial benefits league – but it’s something we want to be at the top of!

Dan Bathie, general Manager of The Common Room

In a little over two years, Sheffield United will have gone from competing with the likes of Bury, Rochdale and Peterborough on a weekly basis, to soon be hosting the top clubs in the land and super powers of world football, like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Quite a rise, that even the most optimistic of Blades would have struggled to believe. The fact they are now mixing it with the top 20 clubs in England is great for the City of Sheffield.

The difference to clubs in financial terms from the Championship to the Premier League is enormous, think of it like the difference between baked beans and caviar.

Sheffield United will likely see a benefit of more than £100m in TV rights and prize money alone. Whilst Sheffield the city could also benefit economically from the increased number of visitors during the 19 match days when United are playing at home.

Premier League football in Sheffield will see the profile of the city being raised, as the global reach of the Premier League is so widespread and the viewing audiences for live matches are continually growing worldwide.

Sheffield city centre and areas surrounding Bramall Lane should also see an economical benefit as United should expect to sell out both home and away end allocations for all home matches.

Dr Dan Plumley, a sport finance analyst at Sheffield Hallam University suggests the combined annual benefit could be around £5m to local businesses, hotels, restaurants and bars.

At The Common Room, True North Brew Company’s sports bar venue, we were watching Sheffield United’s 2018-19 season closely, we became aware that from an early stage another promotion looked like a strong possibility and so would be the case that if either club from Sheffield returned to the Premier League, it would turn our heads and be the prompt for us to reconsider our policy of not showing the teams in the venue on televised games.

For a number of years, it was a strategy we deployed to remain a neutral safe-haven for football fans and avoid any “unsavoury” incidents. You can never be certain about it happening or not, but a reduction in the risk of any conflicts between opposing fans was always the aim of the game for us a sports bar in the city centre of Sheffield.

We feel now is the right time to reverse this policy and would hope to benefit ourselves from the additional trade, whilst still, and most importantly, retaining our reputation for safe, friendly viewing.

We have committed to showing all of Sheffield United’s televised live games in the Premier League this season, of course to remain a neutral venue, we’ll be showing all of Sheffield Wednesday’s live games in the Championship as well.

We wish both teams the best of luck in their respective seasons to come.