The start of the World Cup and the imminent Tour de France’s Gran Depart from Yorkshire provided good fuel for a spirited discussion of our latest review of evidence: on the local economic impact of sports and cultural events and facilities. Earlier this week we went to York to see how our findings – that the local economic impact of these activities tends to be small or zero – would be received.
As participants at the roundtable were quick to point out, there are many good, non-economic reasons for hosting sport and cultural projects including improving health and wellbeing, providing a bumper weekend for the local tourism industry, and building community spirit.
As we explained at the roundtable it is not our intention to discourage localities from hosting these projects – these benefits are real and important even if some of them are intangible and not easily measurable. However, there is an increasing tendency for promoters of such projects to claim that hosting an event or building a new facility will have demonstrable, and often large, direct and indirect economic benefits. It is this claim that the evidence review calls into question.
What we do want policymakers to learn from reading our review (which will be published in early July) is that even the largest projects – Olympics and, yes, World Cups – show only the smallest benefit to the host cities in terms of increased employment and wages. We should be encouraging those who fund such projects to forgo expensive and time consuming financial impact appraisals and focus instead on what these sectors DO unquestionably provide – a good party and happy residents.