Manchester prepares to welcome the soccer world

The city of Manchester will burnish its credentials as a world capital of soccer when it hosts the Soccerex Global Convention from 6th to 10th September.

The city of Manchester will burnish its credentials as a world capital of soccer when it hosts the Soccerex Global Convention from 6th to 10th September.

With the world’s largest soccer business event set for a four-year stint in Manchester, BT City Square at the Etihad Stadium has been confirmed as the venue for the Soccerex Football Festival on the opening two days of the 2014 conference.

The festival will include youth coaching clinics and community activities around the Etihad Campus, and a Soccerex legends tournament featuring the likes of Louis Saha, the retired French international striker and founder of consultancy Axis 10.

Saha was among those present at a press conference on Thursday at the Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City. The Blues are slight favourites to win back the Premier League title ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea in the next fortnight, ensuring the trophy stays in Manchester for a fourth successive year.  Saha’s former club Manchester United were champions in 2011 and 2013, and he said it would “mean a lot” to launch his new enterprise at the convention in a city where he had spent the best years of his career.

“Soccerex is for the whole of Manchester,” said Soccerex founder Duncan Revie, who spoke of how his father Don, a former Manchester City player who would go on to manage Leeds United to two league titles, had been mentored by United boss Sir Matt Busby. “We’re going to bring the whole of football to Manchester and we’re delighted about that.”

Soccerex expects the Global Convention to attract 14,000 delegates to Manchester across its four-year stint, which would generate an estimated UK£23 million for the local economy. Soccer is already responsible for an estimated UK£330 million of economic activity in the city.

Bernard Priest, the deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said Manchester’s name was “carried on the back” of its two Premier League giants around the world, but that the sport was “embedded in every community” of a city where England’s Football League was founded in 1888.

“It’s important because of the brand recognition for Manchester, it’s important because it gets us a foot in the door around the world,” he added. “It’s priceless for the city.”

Danny Wilson, the director of sales, services and operations for Manchester City, said the festival would provide a “powerful platform” for the club, both globally and within the local community.

Alongside events at BT City Square and the main Global Convention itself at the Manchester Central Convention Complex, there are social evenings planned at Manchester United’s Old Trafford and the National Football Centre.

Representatives will be present from across the soccer world, including Fifa, Uefa, the local organising committees for the World Cups in Brazil, Russia and Qatar, the Premier League and Football League, Major League Soccer, and the All-India Football Federation and its new Indian Super League. Businesses like Pricewaterhouse Coopers and SAP will also be represented, as will bodies from other sports like the Rugby Football Union and the National Football League.

“We are absolutely gung-ho on making this the biggest Soccerex the world has yet seen,” said Revie.

The Global Convention will be arriving in Manchester after sunnier spells in South Africa and Rio – where the final event was cancelled last year after a withdrawal of guarantees from the local government – and Priest did make one guarantee for a distinctive event.

“We’re going to keep the rain,” he joked, on a stereotypically drizzly morning in England’s north west. “It’s part of the attraction.”