International investment for sport in the West Midlands

It was during a West Midlands trade mission to India in late 2022 that World Kabaddi revealed that the 2025 Kabaddi World Cup would be held in the West Midlands – the first destination outside Asia to host the sport’s most important global tournament.

Played in 50 countries, kabaddi is India’s second most popular sport behind IPL cricket and securing the global competition is another notch on the belt for the region’s Heart of Sport campaign designed to reinforce its deep-rooted sporting heritage and attract more global sporting championships and conferences to the West Midlands.

It also neatly illustrates the strategic thinking behind why certain specific events are on the target list. 

“For the past 40 years, the largest investment market for the West Midlands has been the United States, but last year India overtook North America in terms of foreign direct investment,” explains Neil Rami, chief executive of the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC), the destination management agency for the West Midlands and the organisation responsible for delivering a regional ‘major events delivery plan’.

Neil Rami, Chief Executive of the West Midlands Growth Company

High hopes: WMGC’s Neil Rami wants SportAccord 2024 in Birmingham to put the West Midlands at the heart of sport

“This shows that the Heart of Sport campaign is helping to underpin a shift in our trade and investment approach, given the geopolitics and the changes that are happening across the world. 

“We’re just finalising a new international strategy for the whole of the West Midlands, which sets out the markets and sectors we will be prioritising, and clearly we want some alignment between those trade and investment markets and the sports events we’re bidding for.”

Rami describes the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit, taking place in Birmingham from 7-11 April, as the “Olympics for sporting event organisers”. This is because it is a prime opportunity to speak face to face with the 125-plus heads of international sports federations who will be in attendance to make decisions that will shape the future of sport, and to show them what the region has to offer. The summit will feature a conference programme, exhibition and a host of networking events, evening receptions and cultural activities, offering attendees an opportunity to organise a year’s worth of meetings in a week with executives from across the global sport ecosystem.

The mission to reinforce the region as a global sporting hub has been effectively bankrolled by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games thanks to a £70 million underspend on the Games budget. 

The Government decided to invest the surplus £70 million in the West Midlands through a Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund, a portion of which was allocated to a Major Events Fund to supercharge the Heart of Sport campaign.

Fireworks at the 2022 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony

Lasting legacy: the 2022 Commonwealth Games set an impressive precedent for West Midlands sport

Credit: Getty

SportAccord has been supported by this fund, while in January 2024 the West Midlands Combined Authority announced £3 million in funding for nine further events – cultural as well as sporting – including £500,000 for the Kabaddi World Cup.

Rami says the events were selected for funding based on a range of socio-economic criteria, such as the direct economic benefits of bringing visitors into the region, as well as the profile it would give the region in relevant markets such as Asia.

Other considerations included whether the event would encourage inclusive participation in the local community and the impact in areas such as education and diversity.

“We also want to ensure that the benefit is there for the whole of the region,” says Rami. “We want to encourage events that will not necessarily always be based in Birmingham, and so it’s important that the Kabaddi World Cup will take place across the West Midlands, with the main events in Wolverhampton.”

Rami says: “We have well-developed plans to attract certain sporting events over the next few years and we’ll be using SportAccord to try to get as many of the relevant international associations and federations out into the region to see the infrastructure and immerse themselves in the opportunity to host their events in the West Midlands. Major, staple events that already take place in the region include the UK Athletics Indoor Championships, the YONEX All England Badminton Championships, T20 Finals Day at Edgbaston Stadium and the British Masters at The Belfry.”


Gaming fans are in for a treat this year as the Resorts World Arena opens its doors to two major international esports events that promise to attract huge, boisterous crowds. 

In April, Dota 2 action returns to Brimingham for the first time in five years as 12 professional teams from around the world travel to the city to compete for a prize fund of $1 million (£790,000).

Commonwealth Esports Championships 2022 in Birmingham

Global gaming: Birmingham continues its esports action with Dota 2 and the SuperDome tournament

Credit: Getty

In September, the esports action continues when the SuperDome tournament makes its UK debut.

Both events are backed by the Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund as part of a strategy to highlight the West Midlands at the forefront of emerging sectors such as esports. The region is synonymous with major names including Codemasters, Ubisoft and Playground and in 2022 hosted the Commonwealth Esports Championships at the ICC, Birmingham.

Urban sports

The streets of Wolverhampton will be the stage for three days of spectacular competition when the Urban Sports FISE Xperience rides into the city in September this year.

The event will be the first time the France-based urban sports series has ventured onto foreign soil, giving UK fans a groundbreaking opportunity to experience the action-packed BMX, scooter and breaking contests between leading riders, and take part in initiation sessions themselves. 

Backed by £390,000 of investment from the Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund, as many as 15,000 spectators are expected to descend on the city, providing a big lift for the local economy.

Kabaddi and Judo

The Kabaddi World Cup is the sport’s flagship event and, with a ready-made fan base in the West Midlands among the communities of South Asian heritage, organisers hope it will make a big impact on the region and across the UK. 

Indian and Iranian players battle it out at the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup

Flagship event: the Kabaddi World Cup is sure to highlight Indian businesses and boost the local economy

Credit: Getty

The tournament will feature the world’s leading men’s and women’s teams – including India, Iran and Pakistan – who will battle it out in venues across the region in March 2025 before the finals take place in Wolverhampton. 

Such is the importance of the Indian market to the West Midlands economy that plans are also afoot to hold a business and trade event alongside the tournament to showcase Indian businesses in the region.

Meanwhile, another contact sport will be staged in the region when the European Judo Union Junior Cup comes to Walsall in June.

Cultural festivals

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games were complemented by a six-month cultural festival, and cultural events continue to be a focus of investment in the region.

For 2024, £1.45 million has been allocated from the Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund for four summer events aimed at boosting visitor numbers and engaging as wide and diverse an audience as possible. 

Victoria Square Festival Site in Birmingham

Investment focus: expect to see more events after the success of Birmingham’s cultural festival in 2022

Credit: Getty

The Black Country Festival, which runs throughout July, will offer a variety of cultural and sporting events across Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell.

Coventry is also receiving support for its three-day Godiva musical festival in July as well as for Caribbean Reggae Fever, its musical celebration of Caribbean culture.

The summer of culture concludes in late August with the Birmingham Weekender arts festival in the city centre.

Find out more about the West Midlands’ Major Sporting Events offer and secure your ticket for the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit 2004 and earn a 10% discount

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