The Saints’ home ground played host to the Three Lions for the first time since 2002, as England competed with Kosovo for the Euro 2020 qualifiers on Tuesday night. Councillors, business leaders, police and even Manager Gareth Southgate commented on the ‘incredible atmosphere’ and the significant contribution made to the city’s economy as England emerged the victor at St. Mary’s Stadium, with civic chiefs subsequently praising the city as a ‘destination for world class sport’.
City Council cabinet member for homes and culture, Satvir Kaur, commented on how large scale events such as these taking place in Southampton can bring in an excess of a million pounds, stating:
It was great to be part of the crowd at St Mary’s Stadium to support the England team at what was a really exciting game against Kosovo. There was an incredible atmosphere both at St Mary’s and throughout the city for the event.
Southampton has firmly cemented itself as a destination city for world class sport; recently being a host city for the Cricket World Cup and we’re looking forward to being a host city again for the UEFA Women’s Euro in 2021.
Growing the cultural life of our city is essential. Events like these bring in tens of thousands of visitors, millions of pounds into local economy, puts Southampton on the map and gives opportunities to local communities.
Executive Director Giles Semper of GO! Southampton, a Business Improvement District that works to promote the city, also commented on the boost to the local economy:
The England v Kosovo game was a huge boost for the city. As a champion of the city we relish any opportunity to put Southampton on the map and opportunities don’t come much bigger than hosting an international football game.
We were thrilled that organisers chose St Mary’s Stadium as the setting for England’s victorious game against Kosovo this week. It gave us an opportunity to […] showcase what we have to offer as a destination. I really enjoyed mixing with the fans of both nations before and after the game – the atmosphere was excellent.
In addition, it would have contributed a significant amount to the local economy as visitors spent money locally in hotels, shops and restaurants. We look forward to replicating this success as St Mary’s hosts one of the UEFA Women’s EURO games in 2021. Southampton truly is a world-class city.
Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton added:
It was a great game both on and off the pitch. We have vast experience of policing big games such as this and we worked closely with Southampton Football Club and the FA to ensure the sell-out crowd could enjoy the match safely.
Our officers and specialist units deployed in and around the stadium, and in the city centre, were ready to act quickly if required but fortunately this was not needed. It proved a great success and there was a fantastic atmosphere between both sets of fans, who did their teams proud.
England Manger Gareth Southgate also praised the night’s host city:
I thought it was brilliant – not only the experience we’ve had tonight, but also the access we’ve had to the training ground, which has been absolutely top level. The people couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful.
We’ve had a brilliant experience and the atmosphere in the ground was absolutely top – credit to the Kosovo fans as well, who added to that.
I hope the people have enjoyed having England nearby, and being able to walk down the road and see them has hopefully been a special experience. We certainly gave them a game to remember. Who says international football’s dull?
The last time the city saw a footballing event on this scale was 17 years ago, when England played against Macedonia in 2002. Tuesday’s 5-3 win for England (who scored after 34 seconds) means that they are one step closer to competing in Euro 2020. The Lions are now top of Group A with a 100% winning record after four games, while opponents Kosovo had arrived at St. Mary’s on a 15-match unbeaten run. Raheem Sterling was on ruthless form, however, and scored five goals inside the first 45 minutes.
This wasn’t the first major event at St. Mary’s in recent years; June saw Rod Stewart fans flock to the city, while last May brought huge crowds to see the Rolling Stones. It is hoped that spectacles like these will become even more frequent if Southampton is chosen as the UK 2025 City of Culture, which is a national competition aimed at reversing the fortunes of ‘forgotten cities’. Council leaders in 2017 title-holder Hull claim that it has brought in more than £1 billion of investment, thousands of new jobs, increased visitors and ‘staggering’ amounts of positive media coverage.