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Major Sports Events Drive Potential £4billion Trade And Investment Boost To UK

football fans chanting

Major sport events in the UK could deliver up to £4billion of soft power, trade and investment benefits in the next decade, according to a new report commissioned by UK Sport and the City of London Corporation.

Commissioned in 2020, the findings of UK Sport and the City of London Corporation’s report on the impact of major sports events, through the study of soft power, trade and investment, place their potential value over the next decade at up to £4billion. This is in addition to an estimated £7billion of direct, expenditure-driven economic impacts.

The UK has staged the biggest sporting events in the world in the decade since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the Ryder Cup, World Cups in rugby, cricket, hockey and netball and World Championships in athletics, para-athletics and road cycling.

The report listed the soft power, trade and investments successes of these events to be:

  • Wide reach: many of the events were broadcast across the world to millions of viewers.
  • Welcomed overseas visitors: many events attracted tens of thousands of overseas visitors to the UK.
  • Engaged local communities: UK residents attended several events to support competing teams and athletes from the UK and across the world.
  • Improved perceptions: visitor surveys indicated the perceptions of host localities were improved by the event experience, and outreach programmes played a role in framing the UK in a positive light
  • High-profile location: a range of famous locations across the UK hosted the events considered.
  • World-class participants: in all cases, elite sport was on show.

While announcing a new mission to create the greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments in May this year, UK Sport published the nation’s international event hosting aspirations for the next ten years, from the 2030 FIFA World Cup to over 40 World Championships from sports such as boxing, athletics, wheelchair rugby and taekwondo.

Produced by professional services firm EY, the report calls for improved monitoring of the impact of events and highlights the opportunity for more partnerships and collaboration between the public and private sectors, getting business involved at the earliest opportunity and doing more to ‘activate’ host cities and regions through non-sporting activities.

The report also acts as a key foundation for better harnessing the soft power benefits of sport and major sporting events to enhance the UK’s global reputation and partnerships – an area that UK Sport is currently working on together with the Government and a number of sports bodies.

Simon Morton, Director of Sporting System and Events at UK Sport, said: “The findings of this report clearly demonstrate the huge value that major sporting events in the UK contribute to the economy.

It has been a pleasure to partner with the City of London Corporation and EY on this project and we hope the findings resonate far and wide.

“We can further build on the undeniable value of major sporting events in the UK by embarking on partnerships not just with the City of London but the business and private sectors as well.

Together this will help us further raise the global profile of the nation and drive significant social and economic benefits for those communities that act as host cities or towns.

“With the support of The National Lottery and Government, the UK has built a global reputation as a first-class destination for the biggest sporting occasions.

As part of our new ten-year strategic plan, we want to host a programme of inspirational major sporting events that will excite new audiences.”

City of London Corporation Policy Chair Catherine McGuinness said: “As we enter a new phase in the UK’s trading relationship with the rest of the world, this report reminds us of our strengths as a sporting nation and how this can be used to build our existing global partnerships and develop links with new trading partners.

“There is a clear and compelling case for adopting a more coordinated approach and ensuring major sporting events are linked to trade and wider international goals.

As a world-leading business centre, we will work with partners and use our convening capabilities, to ensure the report’s recommendations are taken forward.”

Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society, Nigel Huddleston, said: “Major sporting events play a pivotal role in inspiring the nation to get active, but today’s report also shows the invaluable soft power benefits that promote the UK internationally. 

“I’d like to thank UK Sport and the sector for its extraordinary work to date in helping establish the country as a preeminent destination to host major sporting events.

With the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the World Gymnastics Championships, the UEFA Women’s European Championships and the Rugby League World Cup to come in 2022 we have a great opportunity to enhance that reputation further.”

The report found few organisers of major sports events had sought to quantify their soft power, trade and investment impacts, with the notable exception of the London 2012 Olympics and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

It suggests a ‘clear rationale’ should be set for events – linking in with existing event and international relations strategies – and their impact measured, with more clearly defined responsibilities set for public and private sector bodies.

Future events in the scope of the report include the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next summer, Rugby League World Cup in England next autumn and a potential joint bid by the UK and Ireland to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.

The report can be viewed here.