Yorkshire 'needs more than just one year of Premier League glory from Leeds United and Sheffield United to boost region's economy'

Yorkshire football teams need to make themselves a constant presence in the Premier League for businesses to have the confidence to invest long-term in the region, according to a leading academic.

Professor Simon Shibli, Director of the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, says a presence in the division "provides a platform to lever benefits, but is not a land of milk and honey in its own right".

Though he estimates winning promotion will earn a club £150m in extra income, the vast majority of that will go on buying new players, extra wages for the existing squad, taxes and pensions, rather than benefiting the local economy.

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He said: "People start saying, 'what about all the extra away fans?'. Well, Leeds might admit 3,000 to 4,000 away fans, that's fairly average for Premier League clubs. But then when Leeds play away, people in Leeds take their money and go and spend it in London or Manchester.

"When you have 38 matches, 19 pairs of home and away, effectively the additional spending of fans cancels itself out across the country."

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Why Yorkshire tourism must seize on region having Leeds United and Sheffield Uni...

The real benefits from Premier League status, he says, comes from "leveraging the profile that the Premier League might bring to an area". This is an area where Yorkshire has some work to do to catch up with the North West, home to footballing powerhouses Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Teams from the North West have spent 160 seasons in the Premier League in total since 1992/3 compared with just 51 for Yorkshire teams. Even the region's most consistently successful side in this period, Middlesbrough - who some would argue are actually a North East club - have only been in the division for 15 of a possible 29 years.

Middlesbrough players look dejected after being relegated during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London, in 2017. Pic: PA

Sleeping giants Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday have spent the best part of two decades trying to get back to the promised land after being relegated, while Bradford City and Huddersfield Town managed just two years each in the top flight.

Describing the situation in Greater Manchester, Prof Shibli said: "So, if you've got a constant that for the duration of this competition, Liverpool have been there, Everton have been there, Man United have been there, then there is the confidence to build infrastructure, safe in the knowledge that there will be an influx of fans, there will be need for overnight accommodation, there will be need for corporate hospitality for travelling media to be accommodated.

"What happens is you create what is known as an industry cluster. So we often talk about Formula One, and Silverstone and the area around Silverstone has a whole load of engineering businesses linked to motor sport and they talk about it being the 'motor sport valley' or the motor sport industry cluster.

"In North Yorkshire we talk about an equestrian industry cluster, but in the North West there is a genuine professional football cluster, which is well demonstrated by the longevity of the clubs in the Premier League."

The academic says that while getting to the Premier League has a short-term benefit to the club itself, it is only by staying there that it make a long-lasting difference to the local economy

He said: "You just have to hope that it is something which is going to last, rather than being one year of glory, followed by ignominious relegation and Championship mediocrity for another dozen years."

This is borne out by the work of Professor Colin Bamford, a senior lecturer at Huddersfield Business School and a lifelong Huddersfield Town fan who looked into the economic impact of his clubs two recent seasons in the Premier League.

He unsuccessfully applied to football's world governing body Fifa for funding after carrying out a scoping study which involved talking to club officials and sponsors.

And his analysis revealed that the main benefit of the extra millions coming into Huddersfield Town's coffers was to the club itself, with extra funds from television coverage being used to improve the stadium and media facilities.

He said: "To be honest the economic impact wasn't an awful lot more other than that from the club's point of view from when they were in the Championship.

"The biggest problem was capacity, the stadium was as near as dammit full for every match and having to accommodate a minimum number of fans from the other clubs that restricted the capacity to a shade over 20,000 Town fans.

"In the first year they sold about 18,500 season tickets so there wasn't much scope for more people to watch the matches. You don't have that problem with Leeds United of course.

"Another issue is that in Huddersfield there is a genuine shortage of hotel accommodation. If fans are wanting to travel from places like Southampton there isn't an awful lot apart from a Premier Inn. That did in some ways restrict some of the impact.

"From what I could find out though, the biggest impact was in terms of getting Huddersfield known on the global market place, the global village. People know about Huddersfield.

"From an international student perspective it did a lot of good because we realised Huddersfield was there in the global football arena. You can't put a monetary value on that, but it certainly didn't do us any harm."

With Leeds United and Sheffield United representing major cities with plenty of accommodation and better transport links, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive says their presence in the Premier League presents "an opportunity that Yorkshire tourism businesses have to seize upon".

Images of Leeds and Sheffield will be beamed all over the world, while once social distancing measures ease thousands of fans from across the country will be descending and in need of food, drink, accommodation and entertainment.

He said: "Our role at Welcome to Yorkshire and the tourism industry is to attract fans to come on a Friday night, come with their family, come as a group, maybe stay Friday through til Sunday.

"If it's in Sheffield, go for a nice meal or stay at a nice hotel, and then maybe shopping and the game on the Saturday, but then the Yorkshire Wildlife Park or the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the Sunday.

"If it's Leeds United, there are so many opportunities for people to come for the whole weekend. We've got a vibrant city, we've got so much going on in terms of the arts and culture.

"At the moment, theatres aren't open yet but ordinarily, you can attract people to Leeds for fine dining and for a weekend away and then of course on the Saturday and the Sunday in and around the football match you've got many parks and gardens and wonderful stately homes to visit. So in that respect, having two Premier League teams in Yorkshire is a huge opportunity for the tourism industry."

According to Dr Michael Reynolds, an expert from Leeds University Business School, calculating the exact benefit of being in the Premier League is "incredibly difficult", particularly in the Covid-19 era. Though the immediate economic benefit will be mitigated by the pandemic, he cites the "feel-good factor around the region from Leeds getting back to the Premier League for the first time in too long".

He said: "I think you can't underestimate how that makes a city feel a bit more positive and I think generally if people have been a bit more positive and a bit happier they're more likely to spend money.

"And particularly in this time of Covid, where the region has been a bit down and a bit depressed about this understandably, Leeds going up is a boost, it's time to forget about Covid, forget about this situation and for people to celebrate and be happy.

"I wouldn't underestimate that in times like this. At any other time you would have a positive feeling about it but I think now it's a particularly important thing is just having something to take your focus off and feel positive about."