Swans' promotion gives local economy a shot in the arm.
VERY well done indeed to Swansea City, the footballing pride of South Wales. They managed to hold their nerve until the very end and have now delivered Wales' first representative in the Premier League. I have no pretence to be an expert pundit on football, but all the commentators seem united in their view that it is not just the destination that is to Swansea's credit, but the nature of the journey. They have played attractive football throughout the campaign and the style of the win at Wembley on Monday, helped by a competitive Reading side, left most people, including those from outside Wales, pleased at their success.
Professional football is also a business, and a big one, though not sticking to any business rules that most of us would recognise. And here, too, Swansea seem to deserve plenty of credit. They have been through the dark days of near bankruptcy, but seem to have recovered from the lowest steps of the league ladder without the kind of financial profligacy that has symbolised too many of their competitors. No headlines about Inland Revenue winding up orders, and if there is a Russian oligarch in the background he is keeping a very low profile.
Let us hope the same kind of financial discipline can be applied during their stay in the Premier League What are the external benefits to the economy of Swansea's elevation? Well, Cardiff has it's fair share of posh motor dealerships, and you can buy anything from a Ferrari to a Bentley via an Aston Martin in the capital. Will they open branches in the Mumbles, or just send salesmen down the M4 to offer test drives? As we speak, language tutors are looking up the translations for "on the 'ed son" into most European and some Asian languages, in readiness for the influx of international talent. Swansea's legal firms are no doubt expanding their visa teams too.
Our second city, or in sporting terms possibly our premier city, can look forward to welcoming an influx of supporters every other week. The relatively small stadium, for a premier league club, will limit the numbers travelling and the economic benefit from their spending, but nonetheless there will be an influx of cash, and some of those supporters may be persuaded to make a weekend of it when they come down. And the coach companies of West Wales should see good business taking an expanded Swansea fan base to away matches.
The benefit that is harder to quantify is that which derives from the external exposure of Swansea to the rest of the UK and the wider world. On Match of the Day, the Sky Sports shows, and in the national press, Swansea will be mentioned on a regular basis, and, if they can keep up their current style of play, in a favourable context.
And of course the Premier League is broadcast worldwide with a particularly strong franchise in developing markets. I don't tend to fall into the rose-tinted view of some that this will automatically result in business benefits for the wider Welsh economy. But nonetheless exposure, of a positive kind, is something that businesses have to work hard for, and often at a hefty price. Here a Welsh product is being brought to the wider world and our challenge is to make the most of that. This probably needs the trade and investment function of the Welsh Government to take a hand, making sure that the positive work done by City on the field is built on and helps shape a positive view of Swansea and Wales off the field too.
Of course if Swansea lapse into a kick-and-rush team when faced with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea then the external spin-offs will be limited, but nothing we have seen so far suggests that this is likely, nor that this is the best route to a sustained presence in the top flight.
There may well be some real economic benefits to be gained from Swansea's success, and as this is a business column I felt I needed to look for them. But this is actually just an opportunity to say well done. We haven't had much success in Welsh football in recent years so it is vital to congratulate those that achieve it. The most important thing is not to squeeze the last drop of economic benefit out of it but to sit back and enjoy the sporting journey. Go Swansea!
> SWANSEA CITY PROMOTION COVERAGE PAGE 2&3 MAIN PAPER
* The coach companies of West Wales should see good business taking an expanded Swansea fan base to away games in the Premier League