Whenever you try to buy Premier League tickets, especially at one of the big clubs, you will run into these things called memberships.
But what are they? And do you have to buy a membership to get a ticket for English soccer?
The answer to the second question is, Often you do. But let’s back up a little and talk about what memberships have to do with getting tickets.
The Original Idea: Reward Loyalty
Let’s say you are little Generic FC, and you have a big game coming up. Suddenly everybody wants a ticket, but you want to reward the folks who have been with you all the time. So you start by putting tickets on sale only to your season ticket holders, who can buy an extra or two, and next to others who have been buying tickets all along and have contributed to the club. These are your Members.
By becoming a member of Generic FC, you express your loyalty, create an account with them, pitch in a little cash, and let them keep a record of your purchases. You also get perks like a newsletter, patch or sticker, discount at the team store, perhaps access to a lounge on game days, and so on.
Even at the bigger clubs like Liverpool, a membership is generally less than 40 pounds per year – and yes, you have to renew each season. Most clubs also have a youth membership, and some have several options, including an international one that is really just about tickets.
Loyalty Still Counts
Just getting a membership to, say, Liverpool, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to see them play Manchester United. For big games, after the season ticket holders, members then get access based on their loyalty points. And you get these by buying tickets.
Sometimes this becomes a dead end – take Bournemouth, for example. They have an 11,000-seat stadium, but a couple years back they got promoted to the Premier League. So if you weren’t buying tickets when they were nobody, then you basically never will, because every game sells out to season ticket holders and members with more points than you’ll ever get — since you can’t get tickets to Bournemouth and all.
I figure the only want to get into Bournemouth is to get a membership, pick a small-time (or Cup) game, then stand outside the ticket office on game day, hoping for the best.
The same is true for big clubs, if they are playing another big club. For example, if Chelsea are playing West Brom, you might get a ticket on General Sale (which comes after members sale). If they are playing Tottenham, you’ll need a membership, and maybe points as well.
When You Always Need a Membership
The really big clubs have basically made a membership required to ever buy a ticket. For the most part, this is just recognizing the enormous demand, trying to keep track of everyone, and of course squeezing a few more quid out of us. But it’s a hoop you will have to jump through if you want into Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal (which you probably aren’t getting into anyway), and even West Ham.
Even with a membership, some Premier League clubs are just about impossible. For example, I have maintained a membership with Liverpool for three years, just to try and build up some points. So far, in those three years, I have managed to buy exactly one ticket, on a Tuesday night in the League Cup against Swansea. Even after they expanded Anfield, and even when they were playing Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup, I couldn’t get a ticket, membership or no. In that case, I went to Craigslist.
When You Probably Need a Membership
If a fairly big club is playing another fairly big club, like Chelsea-Spurs above, you will probably have to get a membership. Or if it’s a cup game with a big team coming in, like when Liverpool had to go play at Plymouth.
Sometimes, though, it might be a club you’ve never heard of – but a really big game for them. For example, I recently went to Norwich City, and they happened to be playing Ipswich Town. That, for both teams, is the biggest game of the year, so then I really wanted to see it. So say hello to the newest member of Canary Nation (and hence the lounge photo above).
If you’re looking at one these smaller clubs, send an email to their ticket office to confirm tickets will probably be on General Sale, and when.
When You Won’t Need a Membership
Basically, the rest of the time. Fulham home to Blackburn Rovers? Step right up! Swansea City home to Sunderland? Just pay attention to that “general sale” date and get on it.
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If you absolutely positively must see Man U, and they are playing Man City, and it’s your only shot at Old Trafford, there is another (expensive) option: the hospitality package. Now you’re talking a few hundred bucks per person, but you’ll be there.
There is yet one more option that I don’t discuss because I don’t do it: the black market. The one (semi) exception was when I went to the local Craigslist for a Liverpool FA Cup ticket and found somebody selling for face value or less. And I got to go to the game with her, too!