August 4, 2011 / 12:47 PM / 8 years ago

Attendances soar at British sports events despite economy woes

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s major sporting events continue to thrive in the tough economic climate with attendances at the four traditional crowd-pullers up this year, according to a report.

The Wimbledon tennis championships, British F1 Grand Prix and the horse racing festivals at Royal Ascot and Cheltenham all attracted larger crowds than last year with the combined attendance setting a new record.

With nearly all the tickets for next year’s Olympics also sold and Premier League attendances stable, the country’s appetite for sport appears to be healthier than ever, according to global accountancy firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers, in an analysis of the top-10 biggest British events.

“Despite uncertainties around the strength of the UK’s economic recovery, these figures demonstrate the sustained appetite for live sport in the UK,” Julie Clark, UK head of sport at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said.

“The public continue to be attracted to the live experience and sense of occasion offered by the highest profile sporting events; a trend confirmed by the huge demand for tickets to the London 2012 Olympic Games.”

Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix both attracted record crowds this year with 494,761 paying spectators passing through the All England Club gates, a one percent rise on 2010.

Some 315,000 people experienced the high-speed action during the Silverstone weekend of which 122,000 were present for the Sunday race day.

Golf fans also turned out in force to watch Darren Clarke win the British Open despite terrible weather at Sandwich with 180,000 buying tickets. The European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth attracted a record attendance of 93,804.

The theme continued in cricket where England’s recent improvement brought a record fifth-day crowd of 28,500 fans for the Lord’s test against India, although the attendance was swelled by free seats for under 16s.

With the new Premier League season kicking off next week, soccer chiefs are also confident that attendances in the top flight will survive the stinging government cuts.

Last season’s occupancy rates for the 20 Premier League clubs was almost identical to 2009-10 at 92.2 percent — an average of 35,363 per match.

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