The importance of sports to the UK economy
There’s no doubt that the summer of 2018 will be difficult to top! With an uncharacteristically hot summer making for the perfect backdrop to all the barbecues we ever dreamed of, alongside an unpredictably fantastic performance in the World Cup for the English football team that single-handedly boosted the nation’s spirits even further, it was by all accounts a cracking summer. 2020 is set to bring us another worldwide celebration of sport with the Olympics in Tokyo, so you’d be forgiven for thinking 2019 might end up being something of a lull for the sporting world to recharge.
Not so. In fact, some news correspondents are forecasting another great year for UK sports. In particular, cricket is set to be the focus of the year while men’s football takes a backseat, as both the Cricket World Cup and the Ashes series are to be held in England.
Even a ‘quiet’ year has so much going on in the sporting world then. With that in mind, just how integral is the sporting industry to the overall UK economy? In this article, we will cover how the sporting industry supports the UK both in a financial capacity and beyond.
Input to the economy
If you’re not into sports (and perhaps even if you are), the wages enjoyed by sporting professionals might seem ludicrous. In particular, the six-figure weekly wages of top-league football players is a point of contention for some. What are we, as a nation, getting in return for such a cost?
Well, beyond the enjoyment of watching sport, the industry supports a huge part of the UK economy. According to CareerBuilder, the sports industry tallies up a whopping £23.8 billion annually for the economy. Let’s put a little context on that figure with a look at other contributors to the economy. The tourism industry, which the sporting industry technically supports as well thanks to the number of sports fan tourists seeking out games to spectate, brings in £24.5 billion for the economy every year.
Meanwhile, the Royal Family brings in around £1.8 billion to the UK economy each year, depending on the number of royal weddings of course! But this is outstripped by even one single contributor of the sporting world, with cycling drawing in £3 billion each year on its own. It’s a clear contrast that shows just how important the sporting industry is to the nation’s economy, standing toe-to-toe with the tourism industry.
Input beyond finances
Naturally, the sporting sector brings in benefits for the UK beyond financial too. There’s the sense of community it fosters, such as the nationwide burst of pride we all felt, sports fans or not, when England performed so well in the World Cup! This sense of social value also extends to supporting skills outside of sports — for example, numeracy skills in underachieving young people were seen to increase by 29% when becoming a regular sports participant.
Then, there’s the employment side of things. The sporting industry supports over 400,000 full-time positions in England alone.
Plus, there’s the obvious health factor. Participating in sports, which is undoubtedly spurred and motivated in many ways by fans looking up to athletes they admire, brings a much-needed boost to the nation’s health.
Protecting the commodity
With such a strong presence in the UK’s financial stability, what is being done to ensure our sports capabilities are world-class? Well, for one, we have to maintain the best venues for both the players and spectators! A poor pitch can have a huge impact on the game it is hosting. Take Euro 2016, for example: while that year’s unusually wet summer left the French pitches in a terrible state, the UK’s football pitches were kept in prime condition. Of course, wet weather is the very foundation of which groundkeepers are experienced in here in the UK! With hybrid turf technology, undersoil heating, and pop-up sprinklers, our fields are ready for any eventuality. Keeping the soil warm ensures the grass doesn’t fall into its dormant, brown hue and stays green all winter.
As well as keeping the grass warm to avoid it going dormant, adequate draining is also needed to keep the grass from succumbing to the usually damp and dreadful British weather. One such method utilised by football pitches is pipe and slit drained pitches, which consists of a layer of firmed topsoil, stone back-fill, subsoil, and a perforated plastic pipe, along with a slit drain and sand blinding layer to allow water to drain down and away.
Of course, it’s not just football being maintained to such a high level. Thanks to UK Sport investing in a range of sports with money from the National Lottery and Exchequer income, other sporting disciplines are also flourishing on UK soil.
Particularly with the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, current funding is generous indeed. Example figures include £29,624,264 to cycling, £9,838,913 to taekwondo, and £16,457,953 to gymnastics.
The world of sport is hugely beneficial to the UK, in terms of economy and society. The sector sees a huge amount of funding and manpower, but for good reason, with the industry bringing in so much and putting the UK in the global eye as a key sporting participant.