Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Tourism Benefits Of Football

The chairmen of Leicester City and Burnley football clubs will be very happy Thai and Lancastrian gentlemen. Thanks to the new television deal, they can look forward to their clubs receiving untold fortunes in the Premier League next season. Of relegated sides from the Premier, the comedy gold that is the Cardiff City boardroom risks turning to dross despite the parachute payments.

We are familiar enough with the financial imperatives of Premier League football to the teams which inhabit it. In Spain, though the finances are different (the rich - Real Madrid and Barcelona - get absurdly rich, while the others make do), there are similar imperatives. At Real Mallorca they are only too well aware of them, but while the club's woes have been well chronicled, the fall into the Segunda was and is only part of them. The fall could be very much further.

While the football focus is on club finances, what of the wider economy in towns and cities with football clubs? What are the economic profits and losses from tourism of a team being in the premier division or in the second?

I am unaware of there having been a study of the economic impact of Real Mallorca's relegation. If there is to be one, it will probably have to come from the Balearics Chamber of Commerce, which would be following the lead of Chambers of Commerce in other parts of Spain that have sought to put numbers on the impact of promotion if not relegation. And one of the more thorough studies has been that involving Real Zaragoza.

Promoted at the end of the 2008-2009 season, Zaragoza went down again, along with Mallorca, last season. In anticipating the 2009-2010 season, the local Chamber of Commerce examined the benefits of promotion by assessing those that had been derived from the season before relegation (2007-2008). It was a highly detailed examination, and one that threw up some revealing statistics. There was a calculation of the total number of fans (of other teams), of away team members and personnel, of media people and of referees and linesmen. The number of fans was 14,707, an average of 774 per match. Away support for Spanish football teams is considerably lower than in England, and by way of comparison, the average number of away fans for matches in the Championship (equivalent to the Segunda) in 2012-2013 was 1,323, almost double, therefore, the away support for a Zaragoza La Liga match.

The distance that has to be travelled is the principal reason for lower away support, but unlike in England, where an away fan would typically not stay overnight, in Zaragoza a half of the away fans did. It is the overnight stays of fans, teams, press and referees, their spend on hotels, restaurants and other services that are at the heart of the calculation of economic benefit. In total, it was reckoned to have amounted to over 20.5 million euros in the 2007-2008 season.

Another study, that for Murcia, which was promoted in 2007, shows that the general economic benefit was over ten million euros. One for Granada has revealed that the local economy benefits by 28 million euros from promotion.

A professor at the University of Oviedo, Plácido Rodríguez, has done a fair amount of research into the effects of clubs' relegation and promotion on their local economies, but he admits that it is difficult to calculate the effects of relegation. I'm not sure why. If studies can place numbers on the positive impact of promotion, surely the same methodologies can apply in the case of relegation. The professor says that there haven't been "exhaustive studies" into the effects of relegation, and this has led to rather misleading reports. The losses from relegation, e.g. in Zaragoza and Murcia, are reported as being the same as the gains from promotion, when they clearly can't be. Apart from anyone else, there are still the referees and the teams.

Quite obviously though, there is a loss because of relegation, and one indirect way is through the promotion of the town or city. The study into Zaragoza's promotion highlighted the fact that mere presence in the top division exposes the city to greater recognition nationally and internationally and that this leads to more general tourism. The study put a value of 5.5 million euros on this aspect alone.

Whether Real Mallorca's descent into the Segunda has a negative impact in this regard is impossible to say. Nonetheless, there is much to be said for premier league presence acting as a means of indirect tourism promotion. For example, of all those new Chinese tourists who are coming to Spain, a goodly number know all about Madrid and Barcelona because of football. It may only be football, but perhaps rather more attention should be being paid to Mallorca's parlous situation. Back in the top flight, and there is a nice little means of tourism promotion.

No comments: