"Fair allocation systems" must remain in face of increasing tourism

Half and half CC Danny Molyneux

FSF chair Malcolm Clarke said that fair ticket allocation must remain in place as the number of "football tourists" visiting top-flight fixtures increased to 800,000 last year.

Visit Britain released figures this week showing that 800,000 tourists came to Britain to watch football in 2014 - spending a total of £684m. Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the USA contributed the most visitors.

Speaking to the BBC about the trend, Malcolm said: "From our point of view, it isn't a problem unless the normal ticket allocation priorities are distorted.

"We know that clubs like foreign fans because they spend a lot more in the club shop. The concern from fans is at the big grounds and the big clubs is that foreign fans are given priority."

Malcolm was keen to make the distinction between genuine fans of English football clubs, who happen to be based abroad, and the tourists who visit just to experience a football game.

"Atmosphere is created by enthusiastic supporters of both teams.," he said on the Victoria Derbyshire Show. "There is a distinction between someone who lives abroad and is a fan of the club, like the Norwegian Stoke Supporters branch, and a tourist who goes to the game just to take pictures and buy the two team scarf."

Malcolm said groups of tourists can have an impact - in recent season with Stoke City's visits to the Emirates and Stamford Bridge there were groups of foreign tourists in the away section.  "Some of our fans are saying 'Hang on, how did they get tickets?," Malcolm said. "I'm not quite sure what the answer is, they certainly weren't Stoke fans."

In the face of increasing football tourism and global appeal of the Premier League, Malcolm said it was important that fair ticket allocation systems remain in place and do not give priority to tourists over longterm supporters.

Thanks to Danny Molyneux for the image used in this article. Reproduced here under CC licence.