In my quest to visit all 92 league soccer stadiums (aka football grounds) of England, I have picked up a few things about how to buy tickets for the Premier League and other games. I am by no means any kind of guru, but I have managed in a few years to see 101 games at 63 grounds, including games at every club currently in the Premier League.
So here is what I know so far – with more to come as I continue on my quest.
UPDATED September 2019 to remove references to Thomas Cook, which has gone out of business.
What Does it Cost?
To get into a Premier League match, expect to pay something along the lines of £40 to £60. Currently, at around $1.33 per pound, that translates to $58-90.
In the Championship (second tier of leagues) I typically pay about 30 quid (40 bucks), and I assume it’s lower than that in lower leagues.
For Cup games (see below), I have seen them as low as 10 pounds ($12), and sometimes for Cups they run a “kids for a quid” thing that makes for a real family atmosphere.
Buying Tickets From the Club
This is the simplest and most obvious route for tickets, but there are still some things to know, like how clubs allocate tickets. Basically, they start with season ticket holders, then members (more on that in a moment), then the general public gets a shot. But many games never even make it to the “general sale” stage — especially at the big Premier League clubs.
It basically depends on which club you’re dealing with, and who they’re playing. Teams have different tiers of games with different pricing and requirements for each. For example, if Manchester City is playing Manchester United, no way that game goes on sale to the general public; there just won’t be any tickets left. And even within the first two levels (season tickets and members) the price will be higher, and there will be a lower ticket-per-person limit, than if City was playing someone like Bournemouth. If you’re determined to see one of these higher-level games involving top clubs, you may need a membership or you’ll be dealing with a broker or hospitality package (see below).
Many clubs also have a ticket exchange on their website, allowing season ticket holders who can’t make a game re-sell their tickets.
Ticket tip: If you’re buying from a club, it’s critical to pay attention to on-sale dates. Premierleague.com has a ticket-status page for each game, but all they do is aim you at the club sites. Once at the club site, you’ll need to look for the “general sale” date for your match and jump on it that day, keeping in mind the different time zones.
I’ve put together this list of Frequently Asked Questions to help you get started planning your soccer adventure. I also have a more detailed blog post full of starter tips. But now I have something even cooler:
Memberships: Paying for Access
One of the many things England has that America doesn’t is paid club memberships. This is where you pay an annual fee for various perks like the club newsletter, a trinket of some sort, a loyalty-points account … and access to buy tickets before the “general sale” date. There are different levels at each club, and from what I’ve seen you can expect to pay around $50 for this for a season. Some of them have a cheaper international or “light” membership that gets you a chance to buy tickets for one or two games.
Paying $50 just for the chance to maybe buy a ticket may seem silly, but I worked for two years to get any ticket to Liverpool, and I finally (barely) got tickets to a League Cup and an FA Cup game. I now have a membership so that at least I get credit for these purchases!
Ticket tip: Check on those international memberships if you’re only trying to get into one game.
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Serious Access: The Hospitality Package
All clubs have various levels of suite/box experience available — at a cost, of course. These generally include some combination of food, beverages, hotel and stadium tour. They range from maybe $100 or less at a small club to $4-500 (and up) at bigger clubs and at stuff like the FA Cup Final or Champions League games.
Ticket tip: I am an official re-seller of hospitality packages for many clubs in England and Europe. Get in touch!
Cups: Easier to Get Into
If you’re determined, say, to get into Old Trafford to see Manchester United, you probably won’t care who they’re playing. Unless you’re loaded with cash you won’t see them play Liverpool or Chelsea, but you have a decent chance at some of the lower-level games.
One thing to watch for here is Cup games. (Here’s a quick introduction to the leagues and cups of English soccer). They tend to be during the week and, at least in earlier rounds, against smaller opponents. I got killer seats at Old Trafford (for about $50) for a League Cup game on a Tuesday night in January. It was a semifinal leg, but it was the David Moyes season, and the fans were losing faith. Also, the opponents were Sunderland, not one of the heavyweights of the sport.
Another fun thing about Cup games is that there will be more away fans, due to Cup rules. So when I saw Sunderland win at Man U, instead of the usual 3,000 away fans at a League game, there were 9,000 delirious Sunderland fans in the end having the times of their lives.
When I say “Cups,” by the way, I mean the FA Cup and the League Cup. There are also European competitions, but those are tough tickets indeed. For a whole discussion of the leagues and cups of English football, see the link above.
Ticket tip: Pay attention to when the draws for each round are announced, usually right after the previous round is finished. Set up Google News Alerts for “fa cup draw” and “efl cup draw” to make sure you know about them. Or just check in regularly at thefacup.com and capitolonecup.com, the official name for what everybody calls the League Cup.
Lower Leagues: “I Just Want to See a Game!”
If you’re like me and don’t care about seeing only the top teams, you should definitely consider going to a Football League game instead of a Premier League game. The English game is arranged in a pyramid, with the Premier League at the top with 20 teams; under that, in three leagues of 24 each, are the Championship, League One, and League Two – collectively called the Football League.
All of these are much easier, and cheaper, tickets to get – unless you’re talking about a rivalry game (aka a “derby”), a big Cup game, or a late-season game with major consequences in the table (standings).
For example, if you’re going to London and want to catch a game, any game, there are:
- 7 Premier League teams: Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, and Watford
- 4 Championship teams: Brentford, Queens Park Rangers, Millwall and Reading (an hour away)
- 3 League One teams: Oxford United (an hour away), AFC Wimbledon and Charlton
- 3 League Two teams: Luton Town, Crawley Town, and Stevenage
I created this Google Map of all the top 92 clubs around the UK; zoom in on London to see what I’m talking about.
This doesn’t even get into the Conference teams, but let’s keep it fairly simple for now. The same situation is true of other big cities like Manchester and Birmingham, so don’t limit yourself to just the Premier League. In many ways, I find the Football League to be a more enjoyable experience, with smaller stadiums and longtime dedicated fans.
Another Key: Who Are They Playing?
The other thing about getting into these bigger clubs is, of course, who are they playing? Arsenal-Chelsea is a nearly impossible ticket, but Chelsea-Fulham? Or Chelsea-Swansea? Much easier. Some things to watch for here, though: small stadiums and local rivalries called derbies. The best example of this is a game like Fulham vs. QPR, You may not know it, but they are only a couple miles apart and hate each other. It’s the one game per year at each stadium you probably can’t get into.
I also tried once to see Nottingham Forest of the Championship play at home. The opponent was Derby County, and there were no tickets available. The ticket office didn’t even return my emails! Finally I dug a little deeper and realized I was trying to get into an East Midlands Derby – “derby” being their word for a local rivalry. And it’s pronounced “darby” for some reason.
Anyway, Forest and Derby County are only 16 miles apart and genuinely hate each other. No way I was getting into that one, unless I ride out on the train with a pocket full of cash (which I have yet to try) or go to a third-party broker (which I refuse to do).
Buying Away Team Tickets
Sometimes the best way to get in is with the visiting team. For example, in my quest to see a game at Liverpool I might decide to buy tickets from West Bromwich Albion when they are playing there. And this might work. But one of my rules for attending English soccer games is “Don’t sit with the away fans unless you’re one of them.” I’m not quite that strict about it, but in my experience, the away fans tend to be the hard-core ones, and life in the away end can get quite rowdy. But getting away tickets can be hard, so don’t get your hopes up.
I had a great time with the Sunderland people at Chelsea, but I had friends in there, and Sunderland won – which brings me to another rule, “Don’t show your away colors outside the stadium.”
Third Parties: Websites and Touts
Let’s get this term out of the way first: a tout in England is a scalper in the States. I have no experience with them in person, and I really don’t intend to. Still, I have researched third-party websites just a little.
I would start with the standard “safe ticket buying” link at premierleague.com, where you can also see the latest on tickets for each fixture. They also have a list there of un-authorized re-selling websites.
As for “legit” websites, near as I can tell, that list includes Viagogo, which has official relationships with some of the clubs, and Stubhub (ditto).
I hope this post is helpful. If you have any questions, or suggestions, please post a comment below.
See you at the grounds ….