Each year over 800,000 people travel to England. But they’re not here to see the Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, or Stonehenge, as many other tourists would do. They’re here to watch football. But one nation of travelling bands stands out if you’re not counting neighbours Ireland. The one’s leading the inbound tourism is namely Norway.
Look at it as an old-fashioned love affair except you’re only seeing your sweetheart a few times each year. But on the contrary to most relationships, this lasts through your whole life. Since the mere beginning of the league in 1888 English football has evolved into a global tourist magnet with it’s own charm. But why is it that 93,000 Norwegians travelled overseas to see the Premier League in action last season?
— fcbusiness Magazine (@fcbusiness) September 11, 2015
The betting match
It all probably started when Norwegian television broadcaster NRK started with something called Tippekampen, (literally meaning betting game). This happened on November 29th 1969 when the match between Wolverhampton FC – Southampton FC was the first English football match broadcasted on Norwegian television. The game was a part of several other matches that week where you could bet and cash in a good load if the results went correct.
“The betting matches were one thing, but the dissemination ability of the English press was vital for the Norwegian football interest. Massive TV-coverage for decades had an influence, and English radio could be a riveting experience for would-be fans,” says Managing Director in the Norwegian travelling agency “Now We’re Talking”, Jan Roger Henriksen. He has long experience of working with football and was one of the founders of the Norwegian supporter union for British football. His company offers solely football trips for dedicated fans to not only England, but also Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark amongst others. As to why different football clubs appeal to fans from all over the world Henriksen has a clear theory.
“Look at Scotland; the quality of the football isn’t necessarily that good, but it’s about the club colours, logos, flags, and a clear identity. There’s no doubt that football is important! And who hasn’t become a fan of a club because of their beautiful kits?
“When it comes to Norway there’s several factors to why English football has become so accessible and popular. The geographical location and the accessibility due to great travel options, and the fact that most Norwegians understand and talk good English.”
Norway and Scandinavia has also become the perfect market for Premier League clubs because there’s lots of money in the countries up north. Therefor you can say that Norway is the ‘vitcim’ of this massive English marketing of football. But as long as the tourists that are coming over are happy you can’t argue that the trend is just going to keep on growing in the future.
“There is probably going to be a step back this year in the growth since the pound sterling is so high combined with the tickets prices being turned up, but as long as there will be supply there is going to be demand from Norway!”, says Henriksen.
(Interview with Norwegian Manchester United supporter, Bengt Karlsson , at the Old Trafford Megastore.)