SOUTHAMPTON civic chiefs have praised the city as a destination for “world-class sport” following the England victory at St Mary’s Stadium this week.

Councillors, business leaders, police and even Gareth Southgate have commented on the “incredible atmosphere” and the significant contribution the international game made to the city’s economy.

The Saint’s ground played host to an England game for the first time since 2002 with the Three Lions making their return to Southampton for their Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo on Tuesday night.

Southampton City Council cabinet member for homes and culture, Satvir Kaur commented how events on “this scale” tend to bring in in excess of a million pounds to the city.

Satvir added: “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 from GO! Southampton, the city’s Business Improvement District which works to promote Southampton as a destination commented that the game would have contributed a significant amount to the local economy as visitors spent money locally in hotels, shops and restaurants.

Giles said: “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 really put the city on the map and 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 said: “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 manager Gareth Southgate added: “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?”

On Tuesday, it was the first time since Macedonia visited St Mary’s 17-years-ago that the Southampton FC ground welcomed the senior England side.

England’s path towards Euro 2020 continued with an 5-3 win over Kosovo, who scored after just 34 seconds.

Despite this, the Lions are now top of Group A with a 100% winning record after four games.

Kosovo had arrived in Southampton on a 15-match unbeaten run

England, inspired by the Raheem Sterling, responded ruthlessly with five goals inside the first 45 minutes.

The Saint’s stadium has played host to numerous other major events in recent years.

In June fans, travelled from far and wide to see Rod Stewart hero in action at St Mary’s.

Then, last May The Rolling Stones played at the Saint’s ground bringing huge crowds with them.

It is hoped that if Southampton is chosen as the UK City of Culture in 2025 many more events will be here.

The national competition is credited for reversing the fortunes of “forgotten” cities.

The 2017 title went to Hull - where council leaders there say it has brought in more than £1 billion of investment, thousands of new jobs, increased visitors and “staggering” amounts of positive media coverage.


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