Every year, tens of thousands of Americans go see soccer games in England. But since they are visiting a different sporting culture, they often wonder about etiquette at games. After all, we don’t want to annoy our neighbors … right?
So what are some common dos and don’ts at English soccer games?
Here are some I can think of, along with some simple suggestions to make it a more enjoyable day; post a comment below if you have more to add.
Get there before kickoff. You want to catch the pregame pageantry, such as the players coming out and fans singing traditional songs, but you also don’t want to be that person coming in after kickoff. In the UK, that person is quite rare.
Picking up on that, don’t plan to get up and down while the game is on. One of my favorite things about English soccer is the lack of people walking around during the game; there aren’t even food or drink vendors going around. People sit and pay attention to the game; what a concept.
Speaking of food and drink, remember it is illegal to take beer or other alcohol to your seats. You will probably find, as some of my consulting clients have, that you really like this feature.
Study up on the teams you’ll be watching, especially the one whose fans you’re sitting with. It will add to your enjoyment, but it’s also a good way to strike up a conversation with your neighbor. For example, it’s a Manchester City fan, ask if they saw Aguero score “that” goal.
Watch your colors. While studying up, check for the primary color of today’s opponent and your neighbors’ biggest rival. Don’t wear either. I made the mistake of wearing a red coat into Goodison Park once. Won’t happen again.
If you’re with the away fans, which is something you should try sometime, put away your colors outside the ground. The only time I felt remotely unsafe at an English soccer game was when I assumed, wrongly, that no Sheffield United fans could possibly have an issue with little ol’ Fulham. Remember the safety rule: It only takes one nut job to cause trouble.
Learn some of the songs. When your neighbors start singing some of their favorites, or even a common classic, stand up and have a go!
Don’t ask your neighbors to explain the offside rule to you. Many of them will assume that Americans are ignorant of the game and culture; don’t prove them right! Learn offside before you go.
Toss a friendly line at your neighbor, to see if they want to chat. “Fancy your chances?” is a good one to start with. You could also ask about a song or something else, then say “It’s my first time here.”
If they don’t respond to the above, leave them alone!
Understand there are different rules for the above at big-time Premier League clubs and lower-league outfits. At Chelsea or Arsenal, tourists are common, but at a place like Barnsley, you might become something of an attraction. (This also happened to me at West Ham once.)