Interest in soccer has increased in the United States due to recent World Cup success and more games being shown on a variety of cable networks. NBC's deal with the English Premier League (known also as the Barclays Premier League or EPL) and Fox's deal with the Champions League have specifically brought Americans in touch with the most talented players of the world's most global sport. As fans now tune in to see their favorite teams and players on TV, they're also becoming more interested in seeing games live.
Going to a soccer game overseas is the equivalent of going to a college football game in America. Fans show more passion during games than you can possibly imagine with each team having a series of chants that can be throughout the game. Given the ease of getting to England and our familiarity with the language, more Americans are finding themselves attached to the EPL. Here's what you need to know when planning to see your favorite English Premier League team in person.
Getting to England
First, you'll need to get to England, which is easy in the larger scheme of things, but obviously not cheap. Many airlines fly to London from the major cities in the United States. The cheapest times of year to fly to London is between November and March, so that jives well with the EPL season. The best time to look for pricing to fly at those times is the end of August or the beginning of November. Traveling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is historically the cheapest days to travel. The easiest way to look for flight is with travel aggregator Kayak unless you specifically know what airline you want to travel on.
Getting Around England
Once you're in England, you'll need to get to wherever you're watching your EPL game. Six teams (as of 2014-15) are in London and taking the Underground (the English version of America's subway, not to be confused with an English subway, which is their version of an underpass) is extremely easy. Every EPL team in London is located near an underground station. The longest distance you’ll need to travel from Central London to see an EPL team is the hour it takes to visit Crystal Palace.
Getting around the country to other cities is just as easy. England's train system works very well and is quicker than driving. Every EPL city is within three and a half hours of London with Newcastle being the furthest away. Tickets for the train aren’t cheap (as is the same with trains in America) with prices starting at approximately 60 pounds each way and schedules are available at the National Rail website. You can obviously also rent a car and drive around the English countryside as you check out a game in the process.
Getting tickets for Barclays Premier League games is the hardest part of your adventure. Most good teams have large season ticket holder bases, which prevents many tickets from hitting the open market. The reason teams have large bases is because games aren't televised in England during the main 3 p.m. local time slot on Saturdays. (This is done to encourage fans to see lower level league games, providing revenue to keep them in business. The perception is that fans would rather watch their favorite EPL team on TV instead of seeing their local lower division team play.)
The best way to ensure getting tickets is by signing up for a team's membership. The costs are reasonable with the big Clubs (£20 – Everton, £23 – Tottenham, £25 - Chelsea & Manchester City, £27 - Liverpool, £32 - Manchester United, £34 – Arsenal) and there are two key perks for being members. The first is that members get a chance to buy available tickets after season ticket holders, but before the general public. You may never use the other features of the membership, but your goal here is to acquire tickets or else you wouldn't be reading this piece.
Each membership gets access to only one ticket per membership during the initial membership sale, so you'll need multiple memberships for multiple tickets.
The second benefit is that some clubs have secondary markets that allow members have access to. Currently Viagogo services Aston Villa, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, and Queens Park Rangers. Arsenal and Liverpool run their own ticket exchange in-house. Tottenham has a deal with Stubhub, but a few other teams have tickets that end up there as well. Generally, the supply on the secondary market isn’t as much as you’d see for American sports.
Some slightly less talented teams allow ticket purchasing access to those who purchase tickets for a previous game in the season before those who haven't. It's a somewhat silly policy if there are people who want to go when Manchester United is in town get priority to buy tickets because they bought tickets for a Stoke City game earlier in the year. Then the home team loses out on concessions and merchandise sales when the fan most likely doesn't show for the Stoke City game. (On the contrary, the argument could be made that the Stoke City tickets would never have been sold anyway and this just adds extra revenue to the home team.)
Where to Stay
Hotel availability will vary based on what game you're attending, but generally, the home team's fans live in the city where the game is taking place and the away team's fans go back to their city after the game since taking the train from city to city is so easy. You might want to do the same if you’re seeing a game at a smaller team outside of London and can get back with ease. Hotels in London will generally be more expensive, but you’ll be able to see and do more things in England. Those seeing games in London shouldn’t worry too much about staying near the stadium of the game they’re seeing.
As mentioned above, getting to the stadiums are easy, so you might as well stay in a more enjoyable neighborhood. Wherever you stay, you use Kayak again to help with your hotels.
As you'd expect, fans love to have a few pints before the game (and possibly a few after). Bars around the stadiums are always packed before the game, so get there a couple hours before to bask in some local "football" conversation. Fans will start filling the grounds at least an hour and a half before kickoff to put up their flags on the facade of the stands (an English football tradition), sing the local Club's songs, and watch warmups. To tune up your voice, check out some of the lyrics before you go so that you can sing along in style.