Insatiable demand from Indian and Pakistani cricket fans has meant the ICC Champions Trophy, which starts in Birmingham this week, will boost the city by a greater-than-expected £15.5 million.
The spending boost for the city is almost £3 million more than anticipated, aided by the Asian grudge match at Edgbaston on June 15, which sold out in less than two hours.
While over 110,000 cricket fans are set to descend on Birmingham for the Champions Trophy, a potential global audience of 953 million will have their eyes on Edgbaston as the city’s cricket ground hosts five of the tournament’s most high-profile matches.
The event is set to boost retail and leisure spending in the city – and perhaps more importantly, help it to connect with emerging economies like India and Pakistan.
Edgbaston will host the final of the tournament on June 23, as well as the long-awaited England versus Australia match, and viewers from as many as 220 countries are expected to tune in.
Edgbaston chief executive Colin Povey said the matches have sold out the stadium, which was enlarged as part of a £32 million development completed last year.
He said: “The games that we have got are going to be sell-outs and the bigger capacity, and following the new development, that is an extra three thousand or so seats. Also, if you look at the demographic and geographic spread of the fans that are coming in, there are more people coming to the city from outside, like with India against Pakistan.”
He added: “We have always got one eye on the weather forecast, but this week has gone really well and hopefully there will be some sun to lift people’s spirits.”
The city has set out to capitalise on the eyes of the world being focused in its direction. A 30-second film has been produced by Visit Birmingham, the city’s leisure tourism programme, which will be played as part of worldwide broadcast coverage, called This is Birmingham, and a shorter version will be shown in the stadium during the matches.
It features a young woman walking through a range of Birmingham scenes – from the Symphony Hall to the Custard Factory, Jewellery Quarter and the University of Birmingham and is designed to entice viewers to come to the city and experience it for themselves.
The city is also using the prestige of the Champions Trophy as a pitch to the England and Wales Cricket Board to host more of the world’s biggest matches in the future.
Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The appetite for Edgbaston’s five fixtures has been enormous – with India versus Pakistan selling out in just two hours – and we will be capitalising on this interest to really showcase the city to people across all parts of the world.
“Birmingham’s reputation as an international sporting venue continues to grow, following the ICC’s decision to allow Edgbaston to host its all-important final.
"We’re also looking forward to key tournaments, such as the Rugby World Cup and the Ashes, which are on the horizon for 2015, and are hopeful that this success in securing major sporting events is set to continue.”
Birmingham logos will also feature on Edgbaston’s pitch during matches, and adverts about the city will feature in match programmes.
Posters, banners and flags welcoming both the players and fans will be positioned throughout 12 locations across the city.
Ian Taylor, commercial director at Marketing Birmingham – which operates Visit Birmingham – believes the tournament will help the city to capitalise on new transport links that can bring new visitors and businesses to the area.
He said: “Birmingham Airport’s runway extension is able to open direct routes between the city region and destinations including India and South Africa from next year.
"This tournament is the perfect opportunity to encourage a global audience from these important markets to visit the city for business and leisure.”