Football is a global sport whose geography is defined by the great teams, players and tournaments that have shaped, and are shaping, its history. Countries as diverse as Brazil, Liberia and Qatar are all connected by this theme and are part of a landscape that is ever growing.
At elite club level, the football landscape is dominated by a select group of European cities whose teams’ success – both historically and expected – has put them firmly on the map. However, only one city can boast two clubs that will feature so prominently in football’s story in the comings years; clubs whose brand strength and wealth will see them continue at football’s top table for many years to come. Those teams are United and City. That city is Manchester – the football club capital of the world.
By the time Sir Alex Ferguson finally decided to bring the curtain down on his glittering managerial career, he had firmly established Manchester United as a global force – the UK’s most successful club, with over 650 million fans worldwide1 and, until last year, regularly acknowledged by Forbes as the most valuable sporting brand in the world. With the ongoing and aggressive expansion of their global sponsorship portfolio, it surely won’t be long before they reclaim their number one spot.
For a long time, United’s prolonged success on and off the pitch meant that Manchester, in a football sense, was really a one-team city. (I appreciate that geographically Manchester will always be a one-team city but for the purposes of this article, Trafford is counting as Manchester!). All this changed with Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City.
The influx of petrodollars propelled the club’s finances to a level over and above that of even their richest competitors. It saw the club begin an upward trajectory that resulted in them being crowned Premier League Champions in 2012 and now sees them as regular competitors in the Uefa Champions League. Even with the threat of Financial Fair Play (FFP) looming over them, they have spent lavishly again this summer, but have done so by investing wisely to create a balanced squad, rather than making marquee signings. They will no doubt be challenging at the top again this season.
Manchester is a city with football running through its veins and the sport has a big impact on the local economy. In fact, a recent study conducted by Cambridge Econometrics and the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University reports that football related activities in Manchester, including football clubs and businesses whose market depends on football, contributed UK£330 million in gross added value to the regional economy and supports 8,500 jobs2.
Manchester’s football ties are not limited to its two clubs and their impressive stadiums. It is home to the National Football Museum; BBC’s sporting operations, including Match of the Day, have relocated to MediaCity; and from September 2014, it will be home to the world’s biggest football business event, the Soccerex Global Convention. Soccerex has a longstanding relationship with Manchester – the event was ‘conceived’ in the city and Old Trafford hosted one of the early Soccerex editions.
More recently the city became home to the Soccerex European Forum, a two-day event which was highly successful in each of its four years in Manchester. Building on this success, the city won the right to host the Global Convention from 2014 to 2017. This decision was not made lightly – using Visit Britain’s model for measuring the economic impact of business events, and based on the expected attendance of over 14,000 delegates over the four-year period, it is estimated that hosting the Global Convention will generate UK£23 million in direct economic impact – with a further UK£6.4 million of media profile (AVE) 3.
The Soccerex Global Convention 2014 marks a new direction for the event as it returns to Europe for the first time in 15 years, creating a stronger connection to the clubs, associations, federations and confederations located in football’s powerbase. The event will embrace the different parts of Manchester’s football character, giving delegates an unforgettable experience for both the football fan and the businessman alike (in my experience, often one and the same thing!).
The move has been backed by many within the football community, none more so than one of Manchester’s favourite sons – if you’re from the red half anyway – former United captain, current star of Sky Sports and England coach Gary Neville.
In addition to his media work, football commitments and other business interests – he is set to open a football-themed restaurant and hotel in partnership with Ryan Giggs – Gary is also a Soccerex ambassador and had this to say on Soccerex’s return to the city: “Soccerex is a global brand whose network stretches all over the world. With the Global Convention coming to Manchester in 2014, there is a natural affinity and I’m looking forward to welcoming the world of football to Manchester not only as a football destination on the pitch, but as a major international city for the business of football off the pitch”.
David Wright is the marketing director of Soccerex. For more information visit www.soccerex.com