LEFT: Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero celebrates a goal. RIGHT: Roma’s captain Francesco Totti. ABOVE: Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. TOP: Chelsea’s team train in front of the fans.
LEFT: Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero celebrates a goal. RIGHT: Roma’s captain Francesco Totti. ABOVE: Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. TOP: Chelsea’s team train in front of the fans. AP

Big sport gives tourism a free kick

NOTHING gets me reaching for the plastic or asking the missus for a leave pass quicker than my favourite sporting team announcing they are coming to our fine shores.

Sports tourism is big business - irrespective of the code.

Big ticket sporting events pump millions of dollars into local economies as an army of fans from across the nation and the world descend on the respective city in which they are being held.

The new era of competition and demand for major events had seen governments fall over themselves in their bid to attract big-ticket clashes to their cities.

It is estimated sports tourism injects between three and four billion annually into the national economy, but the flow-on effect is where the real money is made - especially for the overall tourism sector.

International eyes will be focused on Australia this month with some of the biggest sporting teams in the world plying their craft at stadiums across the country.

European football giants Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Roma will lead the charge with exhibition matches in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

The games will be beamed live around the world, providing immeasurable exposure for each city.

This comes on the back of highly successful tours last month of newly crowned English Premier League champions Chelsea and crowd favourites Tottenham.

Chelsea's showdown against Sydney FC attracted a record crowd of 83,598 at ANZ Stadium - the largest crowd to ever watch a football match in Australia since the stadium was reconfigured last year.

But that record looks like it will be smashed when Real Madrid take on Manchester City later this month as part of the International Champions Cup at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Tickets to that game sold out in less than a day and are already being on-sold for a small fortune on various online auction sites.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo runs with the ball during a Group B Champions League soccer match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday Nov. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo runs with the ball during a Group B Champions League soccer match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday Nov. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul White) Paul White

But it is not just the allure of watching star players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson or Francesco Totti attempt to hit the back of the net that gets sports fans' pulses racing.

The Australian Wallabies will take on arch rivals New Zealand and South Africa in games in Sydney and Brisbane before heading to the United Kingdom to do battle in the Rugby World Cup.

Tickets to those games are selling fast and no doubt the sold-out sign will be up well before kick-off.

Add to the list the record 91,513 strong crowd that packed the MCG last month to witness State of Origin game two and the sold-out crowd that turned up at Suncorp Stadium this week for game three - it is little wonder the tourism sector loves Aussie sport fans.

NSW Tourism and Major Events Minister Stuart Ayres said Destination NSW supported 136 events last year that contributed $510 million in visitor spending to the state's economy.

"Big sporting events attract visitors to NSW," he said.

"Many stay in paid accommodation, purchase a meal, buy gifts and tour Sydney or the state pre and post event.

"Major events not only drive visitation and add dollars to our visitor economy, they are assisting us to reach our goal of doubling overnight expenditure by 2020.

"A goal, which if achieved, will translate to an economic impact of $36.6 billion for NSW."

Mr Ayres said the state's tourism body would continue to work towards securing top quality sporting events.

He said while each event had a different demographic, they all contributed to injecting funds into the economy.

"Destination NSW sees strong support for all major events," he said.

"When Sydney hosted the opening series of Major League Baseball, more than 100,000 people attended four days of baseball with more than 25,000 arriving from interstate or overseas.

"With event-goers the fan base differs, for example, we are expecting a very different crowd for the V8 Supercars in December to the fans who will attend the Netball World Cup in August."

But it is the international sports fans who take top prize when it comes to injecting big money into the economy.

About 50,000 travelling English cricket fans pumped a staggering $500 million into the national economy during the 2013-14 Ashes Series - more than triple the $150 million British and Irish Lions rugby fans spent when their team played matches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney earlier that year.

Thousands of fans from across the world, particularly from Asia, will fly in to watch the Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Roma matches, bringing with them fists full of cash to spend during their stay.

Thousands more will also attend the NRL and AFL grand finals, Melbourne Racing Carnival and the Australia MotoGP at Phillip Island before a cricket ball is even bowled in the various Test, one-day and big bash matches held over the summer.

Tourism and Events Queensland chief Leanne Coddington said major sporting events played a vital role in showcasing Queensland as a tourism and premier sporting events destination.

"Sporting events generate more than $100 million in direct spending for Queensland with more than 800,000 people descending on the state to attend sporting events last year," she said.

"The Bledisloe Cup last year had over 10,000 interstate and international attendees travel to Queensland for the event injecting more than $10 million into the economy."

Ms Coddington said a balanced portfolio of major events delivered a significant boost for the tourism industry.

She said the organisation was always looking at opportunities to bring top sporting matches to the state.

"We want to raise the profile of Queensland as a premier sporting events destination," she said.

"Events such as the V8 Supercars, the Bledisloe Cup, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and this month's Liverpool game at Suncorp Stadium are examples of the diversity of the sporting event portfolio. As we look towards the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, events like these showcase Queensland's ability to host premier events and underline their importance to our economy."

INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP MATCH AT THE MCG

Game tickets: $50-$215

Match Day: Up to $150 (food, drinks, souvenirs, and program)

UPCOMING SPORTING BLOCKBUSTERS

Liverpool v Brisbane Roar - July 17 - Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Real Madrid v Roma - July 18 - MCG, Melbourne

Wallabies v Springboks - July 18 - Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Liverpool v Adelaide United - July 20 - Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

Roma v Manchester City - July 21 - MCG, Melbourne

Manchester City v Real Madrid - July 24 - MCG, Melbourne

Wallabies v All Blacks - August 8 - ANZ Stadium, Sydney


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