World cricket legend speaks of love for Swans
A world cricket legend says Swansea's Premier League status means the city's profile is being raised across the planet
A Swansea City Fan
Former Glamorgan and England cricket captain Tony Lewis reckons millions of people will now have heard of Swansea and Wales for the very first time because of weekly fixtures against the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.
And it's this worldwide exposure that Swansea Council has been making the most of since the Premier League kicked-off.
Latest figures show the Council's marketing activity around the Premier League has led to over 6,500 click-throughs to the official Swansea Bay destination website since August and over 2,000 views of an Online Premiership Guide to Swansea Bay.
Visit Swansea Bay's number of Facebook fans also increased by 73 per cent from September to October and unique visitors to the Visit Swansea Bay website were up 37% in November compared with the same month last year.
Over 2,300 people have requested a copy of the Swansea Bay Holiday Guide since August.
Mr Lewis and his wife are Swans season ticket holders having only retired to the Porthcawl area last year.
The 73-year-old was born in the Uplands area of the city and has followed the Swans for over 60 years.
Mr Lewis said: "My grandfather had a store when I was a child and I'd call in there on the way to Vetch to stock up on some free sweets before watching the football. I can still remember all the Swans players from my childhood - Ivor and Len Allchurch, Cliff Jones, Terry Medwin, Mel Charles and the rest of a talented generation.
"I've been a fan ever since and, no matter where I was all over the world, one of the first calls I'd make on a Saturday evening would be to call home and find out how the Swans had done. Nobody in places like Sri Lanka knew where on earth Swansea or Wales was in those days.
"I'd like to think the Swans promotion to the Premier League was pretty well-timed. It happened just after I retired to the Porthcawl area and meant my wife and I were able to buy season tickets.
"I'm now at every home game and shout myself hoarse along with every other Swans fan."
Mr Lewis led Glamorgan to the County Championship title in 1969 and was the last man to captain England on his test debut in 1972.
He was also Chairman of the Wales Tourist Board for eight years and says Swansea is well-placed to make the most of being in the Premier League.
Mr Lewis said: "Swansea was badly damaged during World War Two - my grandfather lost three shops - but we have wonderful bays and a magical Gower peninsula and I love the indoor market. I still go there regularly to buy cockles and laverbread and all the farming produce.
"The Premier League is a honey pot that's one of the biggest brands in the world. It means many people will be hearing about Swansea for the very first time and I'm sure everyone involved in tourism in Swansea and Wales is doing all they can to make the most of the status."
Swansea Council is working closely alongside the Welsh Government and its other partners to ensure the city reaps the rewards of Premier League status.
A visiting fans corner website with key information about Swansea Bay has been made available and several innovative marketing campaigns are targeting the footballing heartlands of the UK.
Cllr Graham Thomas, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said: "We recognise the importance of being in the Premier League and are doing all we can to encourage people to spend time in Swansea Bay as a destination instead of just driving straight down and back for the football.
"Our feedback so far shows visiting fans have been hugely impressed with Swansea and that many have booked return trips in future even when the football's not on.
"This is great news for the local economy because local traders and hotels will benefit from an influx of visitors who'd never have been introduced to Swansea Bay were it not for the football."