Does Premier League benefit community?

By Rajeev GuptaReporter, BBC Radio 4 You and Yours
Reading Football Fans
Reading wond promotion to the Premier League in 2006 and then again in 2012.

Monday's Championship play-off final not only ensures promotion to the Premier League but is also said to be worth over £100m to the victor.

For Watford and Crystal Palace, pride and status are at stake at Wembley, but is there any economic benefit for the wider community?

Last year, Reading celebrated a second promotion to the Premier League within six years but soon went straight back down to the second tier.

Though you might expect the Chamber of Commerce to paint a positive picture; not everyone in the town sees Premier League football as an economic driver.

Just a few hundred yards from the £860m recently redeveloped Reading train station is the Three Guineas Freehouse - a pub that was once on the verge of closure after a BBC MacIntyre Undercover documentary exposed it as being a drinking den for Chelsea and Reading hooligans.

Graham Emmerson was the landlord brought into to turn the pub around and has transformed it into the official drinking pub for away supporters.

"My business is better off when Reading are in the Championship. The away ticket quota for Championship games is over 4,000 and in the Premier League there is only around 2,000," says Emmerson.

"Fans are more buoyant in the Premier League and there's a bigger buzz, but when we do the figures we always make more money during a Championship season. It's a fact that away fans always spend more money and there's more matches being played.

"I'm sure other shops and bars in the town will tell you the same."

It is impossible to determine the exact economic benefits to the town from one season in the Premier League but Claire Prosser, head of policy at the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce is convinced that the club's promotion has been worth tens of millions to them.

"There's no doubt Premier League football has put Reading on the map, not just in the UK but worldwide. It's free advertising for us on a level which we wouldn't be able to do otherwise and that helps companies here make global deals and bring inward investment.

"All sectors of the economy here benefit. We have large corporations like Microsoft and the deals they generate help feed smaller to medium-sized companies. The Premier League has to be part of the sales pitch for businesses in our area."

The only extensive research to be done in this area was carried out by Cardiff University looking at Swansea's promotion in 2011.

It found that Premier League football generated £58m to the local economy, which included an estimated 400 jobs. Its report suggested that while the majority of the economic value was created directly by the football club, most of the jobs created and safeguarded were from 'non-footballing' activity.

Former Reading captain turned BBC Berkshire broadcaster Adrian Williams says the social benefits of Premier League football as well as any perceived economic ones are what is most important.

"When you've got world-class players like Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney coming to the Madejski Stadium, that's great for the kids to see as well as the area. Hopefully even though it's only been one season we've got thousands of more people into football and supporting their local club."

Williams says the club employ more people in the Premier League and are better resourced to help the wider community.

"Everything's notably busier, the club shop, the hotel, the restaurants on site. There's more staff and jobs for people through that and the knock-on effect in the town. Football can be a big part of things," William added.

"Unfortunately though we've just been relegated so as nice as it is to talk about the Premier League, we've got a challenge in the Championship next season and we'll have to dust ourselves off and try and get back to the top division."

You can hear the full report on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme on Monday, 27 May from 12:00 BST.