Football tourism – why it’s not just half and half scarves

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The half and half scarf – now a staple part of football memorabiliaInge Matteeusen and Magali de Cooman soak up the atmosphere as they shuffle along Goodison Road, decked out in freshly-bought blue merchandise.Having travelled to Merseyside from Belgium for a long weekend, they were originally keen to see Liverpool play, but the Reds weren’t at home so the Toffees are reaping the benefit.”This is our first game in England,” says Inge. “We have come to Liverpool to see the city but coming to a football game was always going to be a part of our trip.””Liverpool weren’t at home but we saw Everton were playing Manchester City,” adds Magali. “And Everton have the same colours as our local team Gent, so we are happy in blue anyway.”And with that they depart, proudly sporting their newly-acquired colours. They’ll return to Belgium on Monday but will take a little bit of Goodison Park with them.Football tourism is a booming industry and there is currently no hotter destination than the Premier League. The most recent study of the economic and social impact of England’s top-flight, conducted by EY for the 2016-17 season, showed 686,000 people came to the country for the purpose of visiting one of its clubs and spent £555m during their stay – numbers that will surely only be boosted by English sides’ recent European success.Having this year confirmed the Premier League’s power as a driver of inbound tourism via its own study, it is no surprise to find VisitBritain’s website prominently offering visitors the chance to plan a football pilgrimage.

Inge Matteeusen (left) and Magali de Cooman (right) outside Goodison ParkFor most, the trip is a labour of love.Every week, hundreds of official supporters’ group members travel to England – some regulars, others embracing the rare opportunity to see their side in the flesh.Most groups will have an arrangement with their Premier League club for a set amount of tickets over the year to share among their members, with some larger groups possessing a small number of season tickets.They are the loyalists – committed overseas fans, who possess all of the knowledge and fervour of their English peers, just not the geographical fortune.They also stand in stark contradiction to the stereotype of overseas fans with a half and half scarf wrapped round their neck and no true affinity in their heart.There’s Ryan Hayman, chairman of the 1,500-strong Boston Spurs, who helps cater for Tottenham fans across New England and whose own five expensive and lengthy journeys to England have included seeing his side beat Leicester 5-4, face north London rivals Arsenal and

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