LONDON The lure of the Premier League has brought many of the world's biggest names to play football in England -- and it also draws huge numbers of fans from abroad to watch it.
More than 750,000 visitors to Britain attended a match last year according to figures from national tourism agency VisitBritain, underlining the global appeal of English football.
In the process they provided a boost to the British economy, with all those visitors who watched a match spending a combined 595 million pounds. Those visitors who watched a football match spent 776 pounds on average -- rather more than the 563 pounds spent on average by incoming visitors.
Given the long-standing popularity of English football in Scandinavia, it is little surprise to note that visitors from Norway are most likely to come to watch Premier League football - one in 13 Norwegian tourists arrive specifically to attend matches.
Second on the list are visitors from the United Arab Emirates -- a number that may grow given that country's links with Manchester City, the club owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and sponsored by Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi.
Around 40 percent of those who attended a match said that watching sport was the main reason for visiting the UK. The research suggests that football helps draw visitors during quiet times of the year, with the greatest proportion of inbound visitors going to a match between January and March.
Of those who come to Britain to see family and friends, those most likely to take in a football match are from Japan, China and Australia. As for business visitors, it is those from Norway who take in most matches.
The most popular grounds for foreign visitors are Old Trafford, Anfield and the Emirates Stadium.
Premier League football is broadcast live in 212 territories around the world and the British tourist authorities are doing their utmost to exploit the popularity of the self-styled 'home of football'.
VisitBritain launched this year a dedicated Premier League section on its website which features interviews with international Premier League players on what they most like about living in Britain, as well as recommendations on what visitors should see and do in the country.
Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy & Communication at VisitBritain said: "Not only do some of the best players in the world want to play in Britain, but their international fans want to follow them here to savour the atmosphere of a match."
Thankfully VisitBritain did not enlist the help of Carlos Tevez, the Manchester City-based Argentina striker who was highly critical of the place when speaking on a TV chat show in his home country in June.
Asked what was wrong with Manchester, Tevez, who is keen to leave the club, said: "The weather, everything. It has nothing."
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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