Every summer, Liverpool fans question the true purpose of what has become the club's annual tour to far flung places around the globe. Whether it's a jaunt to North America, a significant commitment to Asia and Australia, or a quickie hop over to continental Europe, Liverpool players spend a lot of their pre-season travelling and fans often wonder what that kind of circus is worth.
Luckily for those fans, the Office of National Statistics (via VisitBritain, Britain's official tourism office) crunched some numbers in a recent survey and determined that over 800,000 fans from overseas attended a Premier League match last season, bringing in over £684 million to the British economy — an average of £855 per foreign fan. 99,000 of those fans, or a little over 12%, paid a visit to Anfield, and it was determined that 10% of all visits to the north west of England was related to football (including but not limited to Liverpool FC).
It paints an interesting picture of the makeup of English football grounds, especially at popular clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United that have vast global support. There is often a foreboding sense that "foreigners" are now a significant portion of the matchgoing public, but averaged out across the season they only account for about 10% of Anfield's total audience each week. That's not an insignificant number as compared to the foreign presence at, say, The Old Spotted Dog Ground — proud home of Clapton FC since 1888 — but it's also not anywhere near the mathematically significant number one might have estimated based on the handwringing over this subject.
It also reveals that most foreigners visiting Premier League clubs are in fact themselves European, with the Irish and the Norwegians being particularly big both league-wide and for Liverpool specifically. Add American fans into the mix, and 40% of fans are coming from Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. The Netherlands, Spain, France, and Germany round out the top eight countries. Complaints about foreigners largely seem to revolve around the presence of Asian fans in stadiums, and like with the vast overestimation of the number of foreigners actually in stadiums, there also seems to be a vast overestimation as to the number of Asian fans attending matches across England, too.
There are, of course, concerns about how to maintain the rich atmosphere provided by local fans for decades, especially since it's that atmosphere that helps fans all over the world fall in love with English clubs. But if the results of this research are anything to go by, foreign interest in Premier League football may be on the rise, but it is nowhere near a critical mass in danger of pushing locals out of stadiums for good.
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