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Fri 19 Aug 2011 01:32 PM

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UAE visitors lured to UK to watch Premier League football

VisitBritain survey shows UAE fans second on list of overseas visitors to elite football matches

UAE visitors lured to UK to watch Premier League football
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Swansea City at Etihad Stadium on August 15. (Getty Images)

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.

Second on the list compiled by tourism agency VisitBritain were visitors from the UAE and that number might grow given that country's links with Manchester City, the club owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and sponsored by Etihad.

More than 750,000 visitors to Britain attended a match last year according to figures from 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 ($982m).

Those visitors who watched a football match spent 776 pounds on average - rather more than the 563 pounds spent on average by incoming visitors.

Visitors from Norway were most likely to come to watch Premier League football - one in 13 Norwegian tourists arrive specifically to attend matches. Second on the list were visitors from the UAE.

Around 40 percent of those who attended a match said that watching sport was the main reason for visiting the UK.

The research suggested 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.

The most popular grounds for foreign visitors were 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'.

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."

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