In a week where only 27,000 fans turned up to watch the Republic of Ireland play a crucial European Championship qualifier in the Aviva new figures released by VisitBritain.co.uk have shown that the Irish Soccer public are not quite as reluctant to cross the water to get their football fix!
The number of fans from overseas travelling to Britain to watch top-flight football rose to 800,000 in 2014 and contributed £684m (€940m) to the British economy, according to recent research.
Most fans came from the Republic of Ireland (121,000), with Norway (93,000), Sweden (58,000) and the United States (53,000) next.
Old Trafford and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium were the most popular venues, both receiving 109,000 visits each.
Premier League chief Richard Scudamore not unsurprisingly said the rise was “very encouraging”, but the news was not greeted with such enthusiasm by football supporters groups who said the figures, released by tourism body Visit Britain, highlighted concerns they have about the make-up of fans in stadiums, ticket prices and club identity.
The last time Visit Britain – which has a partnership with the Premier League to encourage visitors to come to Britain and see a live match – published figures was in 2010, when 50,000 fewer fans attended games.
The research shows that fans want to experience the excitement in person, which in turn is boosting the British economy, maybe they should try Tallaght Stadium, Dalymount or Oriel Park on a Friday night!