A SETBACK but not a long-term financial disaster - that's the verdict about the economic effect to Southampton of the team's relegation from the multi-million-pound Premiership.

Jimmy Chestnutt from the Southampton & Fareham Chamber of Commerce said it was difficult to put a figure on the value of having a Premiership club in the city.

However, he agreed that Saints' presence in the top flight for the past 27 seasons had undoubtedly helped put Southampton on the map.

Mr Chestnutt said: "This is a setback for the team but not a long-term financial disaster for the city.

"Sport is part of the lifeblood of a prosperous and dynamic city.

"Being relegated will have some effect on the economy of the region, especially for some industries, but it is up to the club and the supporters to ensure that matches still attract large crowds so the financial impact is kept to a minimum and morale is kept to a maximum".

A spokesman for chartered accountants The Tenon Group Plc agreed the effect of relegation would not just be felt by the club and its supporters, but also by businesses across the city.

She said: "With Saints down, then we wouldn't automatically cancel the company's season tickets with the club but we would have to look at whether they were still worth


"The problem for us is that many of the clients we take to games are not necessarily Southampton fans, but they do want to see top-flight games and the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal.

"If you're not in the Premiership, then you don't get those games week in and week out and that makes taking clients to the games less appealing."

She added: "There will certainly be a knock-on effect across the city as well because, for example, we always book out a restaurant before a game, but if we are not going to take tickets then neither will we book the lunches, which will mean local restaurants will lose out."

John Williams, director of the Centre for Sociology in Sport at Leicester University, said: "We know, for example, that there's a marketing and advertising advantage for being in the Premiership, which is worth maybe tens of millions of pounds in overall free revenue to the club and the city.

"Being seen and heard all over the world and across Europe is extremely important in terms of attracting businesses and people to the region.

"When people see a football team on TV from another part of the world they wonder what kind of a city the team comes from and what the city has to offer.

"This is one of the things that Southampton will lose and will have to deal with.

"If the club doesn't come straight back up then the interest in Southampton from across the world will fade as the city falls out of the global consciousness."

However, Simon Mouatt, a senior lecturer in economics at Southampton Institute, added: "Southampton is a big regional centre and although there will certainly be some economic effects to local businesses such as restaurants and bars, there won't be some massive collapse in the local economy."