When television money started to really flow into football Silvio Berlusconi, the former AC Milan owner and three-time Prime Minister of Italy, said that one day the TV companies would have to start paying fans to attend matches or the atmosphere would be so bad it would damage the quality of the broadcast. Berlusconi and others, including former England manager, Terry Venables, were worried that the appeal of watching football on television would keep fans away in large numbers. Those fears are yet to be proven correct.
Crowd numbers across English football have never been higher. Premier League matches average over 38,000 fans per match, the Championship just above 20,000, League 1 nearly 9,000 and around 4,500 in League 2. These are incredible numbers, especially at the lower end of the spectrum where the quality of football is lower, the facilities are far more basic and yet the prices remain relatively high.
A large proportion of these fans will be the hardcore supporters who turn up to every home game. Others, however, will be less frequent visitors to their team. A combination of fans who live far away from their team’s home stadium, those who cannot afford to make it to every match, and tourists who want to experience the atmosphere of an English football match make up the tens of thousands of people looking to buy tickets to the various games of football that take place every week during the season.
If you have never bought a ticket to a football match before it can be a little daunting to work out where to start. That’s why we have looked at the different options available – both official and unofficial – in this guide to buying tickets to football matches.
How Much Do Tickets Cost?
Before we start looking at just how you might try and get tickets it probably pays to know what you might be expected to pay. “How much do football tickets cost?” is very much a “How long is a piece of string?” sort of question and there are almost countless variables. The main factors, considered very broadly, affecting the cost are:
- Ticket Type – Are you buying a one-off ticket or a season ticket and is it for the best part of the ground for an adult, or the cheapest part of the stadium for a pensioner?
- Match – Tickets to a Champions League final or World Cup final will cost a lot more than seeing your local side play in the league, whilst there is also a lot of variance from one country to another, as with most things.
- Purchase Channel – official tickets bought through the club will generally offer the best value because no third party is taking a cut. Ticket prices from touts or resale sites can be hugely inflated.
Single Adult Premier League Game: From £45
As a very general guide to prices in England, one might expect to pay around £45 to £60 for a single adult ticket to a Premier League game, though this can be a good degree higher at London clubs, such as Arsenal and Chelsea. Most sides offer various concessions, typically for children, young adults and OAPs, though criteria differ from club to club.
Single Adult Premier League Season Ticket: From £400
In terms of season tickets in the Premier League, the cheapest full adult season ticket typically starts at about £400-£500 (though West Ham and Man City have some very cheap options for £299 and £350 respectively). At the other end of the scale, prices can get very high, very quicky, stretching to more than £2,000 for the best seats at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Championship Tickets: Generally Cheaper
In the Championship, tickets of all types are generally cheaper, though not, perhaps, by as much as you might expect. Even in League 2 and non-league football you might pay £10 to £20 for an average match. When it comes to cup games prices can vary greatly. If a side is struggling to attract great numbers for a midweek League Cup game, then they may cut prices significantly and sometimes even let children attend for free or perhaps for just £5.
Bigger Cup Ticket: Pricey & Hard to Source
However for bigger cup contests prices are broadly similar to the PL and should your team be lucky enough to make it to Wembley you can expect to pay even more. Tickets for the very biggest games are often into three figures, with even the cheapest tickets for games at the latter stages of Euro 2020 starting at around £150.
The top-tier tickets for the final itself were a pricey €945, with the two other price bands still rather hefty at €595 and €295. If you think that’s a lot, a pair of tickets on some resale sites were apparently as much as £15,000 for the England v Italy showdown! So, if these prices haven’t put you off and you still want to try and get tickets for a game, what should you do?
How to Get a Ticket for a Home Game
When health issues meant that English football had to take place behind closed doors for an extended period of time, we finally got an insight into the value of home advantage. Everybody knew that teams won more games on average at home than away but in the absence of fans that advantage disappeared instantly. Home crowds give their team a boost, they create an intimidating atmosphere for the away team and they put pressure on referees to make decision in their favour.
The vast majority of fans at most professional matches are there to support the home team. That means there are more tickets in the home section of the stadium and so they are, by and large, easier to come by for casual fans. There are a few ways to buy home tickets in home stadiums as outlined below.
Season Tickets: Contact the Club’s Ticket Office
Just like a season ticket for a train journey or theme park gives the owner unlimited access at a rate that is better value than paying for each individual use/ticket, so a season ticket gives football fans a seat at each one of their team’s home games. Anybody who wants to make the commitment to buy a season ticket can usually do so by contacting their club’s ticket office.
There Are Waiting Lists for Bigger Clubs
Not all season tickets are alike though. Some clubs only include league matches, some include a certain number of cup or continental fixtures while others do not include end of season playoff clashes. Moreover, buying a season ticket is easier for less supported clubs. You’ll find that the biggest clubs have waiting lists just to give fans the chance to buy a season ticket which can be very long. At clubs such as Everton, Leeds United and Aston Villa the waiting list is around three years while Arsenal and Manchester United fans would have to wait closer to 10 years and the Liverpool waiting list has been closed entirely for over a decade.
In addition to having a seat for every match, season ticket holders get other benefits. They are included on priority lists for cup matches at home and for away games and sometimes even discounts on upgraded tickets or items in the club shop.
Membership: Best Chance of Buying a Ticket for One-Off Home Games
Memberships offer fans without season tickets the best chance of buying a ticket for one off home games. Most clubs will charge a relatively small fee for a membership that tends to run for the course of a single season.
Exclusive Sale Windows
Membership comes with an exclusive window for fans to buy tickets to a match before they go on general sale. It is worth noting that members may not necessarily be first in line for available tickets. West Ham, for example, issued bonds to raise money for stadium upgrades in 1991 and bond holders still get priority on tickets. As football clubs all have unique histories it can pay to check for similar membership categories before buying memberships or tickets.
General Sale Tickets: First Come, First Served Basis
Foreign tourists or indeed anyone interested in visiting a new stadium will most often buy football tickets after all members when they go on general sale. With some caveats at certain clubs and for specific matches, general sale is the time when tickets are offered up to the market on a first come first served basis.
Premier League & Cup Matches Never Reach General Sale
You will find that some Premier League and cup matches never reach general sale because there is such a high demand for tickets from season ticket holders, members and other priority categories. Moreover, the police and/or clubs may decide that allowing unfettered access to tickets is unwise due to the threat of away fans buying tickets in the home section.
Championship Matches Are Much Easier to Attend
The further down the football pyramid you go the easier it becomes to buy tickets on general sale. It’s rare even for Championship matches to be sold out so there are always options for anybody disappointed by the inability to get a ticket for a Premier League game.
Indeed, a large proportion of tickets to lower league and non-league matches are not only sold on general sale but simply sold at the ground on the day. The joy of choosing to go and watch football on the morning of the match is just one reason why non-league football is seeing a growth in fan numbers.
How to Get a Ticket for Away Games
The biggest, most committed football fans go one step further than turning up at home every other week to support their team. Every week, thousands of fans in Britain travel by car, coach and train to follow their team up and down the country. As there are fewer tickets available for away games than home games it is much more difficult to get your hands on a ticket but there are a few ways to do it. It also generally gets easier to buy away ticket the further down the leagues you go.
10% of Capacity Goes to Away Fans
In general, clubs are required to give 10% of their capacity to away fans. This percentage increases for some cup competition such as England’s FA Cup but generally clubs wish to give away as small a number of tickets to away fans as they can get away with. There are some exceptions to this, such as Scottish football. The supporter base of Celtic and Rangers dwarfs that of any other club in Scotland and so clubs will often provide the two Glasgow clubs with a large percentage of away tickets in preference to seats going unsold.
Away Season Tickets
Fans who want to make the ultimate commitment of time, effort and money to their team can purchase an away season ticket. Although not available at every club, away season ticket holders have a guaranteed seat at every away game of the season in the same way that a traditional season ticket works.
Some clubs offer a little more flexibility with their away season tickets. Rather than simply guaranteeing a seat, these clubs provide their away season ticket holders with an exclusive window to buy tickets. This means these fans are not compelled to get to every away game, although many of them still do.
Points Schemes to Award Fans Who Attend Away Matches
After tickets have been sold or allocated to away season ticket holders the football clubs with the biggest fanbases operate a points system for the remaining away tickets. These schemes which are often called ‘priority points’ or ‘loyalty points’ exist to reward those who go to the most away matches and apply to both home season ticket holders and members.
A typical away points scheme sees clubs award fans with one point for every away match they go to. When fans apply for a ticket to an away match the club will then allocate them based on the number of points the fan has accrued over the previous season or two seasons. Many away games don’t require the use of points but they are very useful for the trips to the biggest clubs or for cup and European matches where demand for an away ticket is very high.
Anybody who wants to experience an away day with a Premier League or Championship club needs to understand the way these systems work or they’ll be forever be unable to even apply for away tickets and will be disappointed. Even fans who get to multiple matches per season can be confused about away points as certain clubs differentiate between league, cup and European matches. Some even have points systems for a whole cup campaign where tickets to the semi final or final (whether on neutral territory or not) are allocated to those who have been to the highest number of matches in that specific competition during the season.
A Membership Increases Chances of Going to a Match
When it comes to home tickets, membership is a good way for fans to increase their chances of getting to a specific match. With many clubs, membership is an absolute necessity for buying away tickets.
Clubs, the authorities and the police work very hard to keep trouble to a minimum with surveillance and intelligence playing an important role. If clubs know exactly who is travelling to an away game they can liaise better with the authorities and, so goes the argument, make the experience a safer one for all involved.
It is rarely difficult to travel to a match as an away fan in the lower leagues but many Premier League and Championship teams do not offer away tickets on general sale. These clubs can be even stricter when it comes to European away games.
Always Visit the Official Club Website for Tickets
However you try to get hold of tickets officially, the club itself should always be the first port of call. They will all have information on their websites about the various ticket options available, including criteria for points systems, details of season tickets and waiting lists, dates when tickets go on sale to the various categories of buyer, including general sale, and much more.
For International Matches & Tournaments: FIFA & UEFA
The only potential exception to this comes for international matches and tournaments, and some high-profile cup games, such as finals. For these, rather than looking at a club website, applications may be processed either through the national federation or organising body, such as FIFA or UEFA. Either way though, the same sorts of rules apply and all the relevant information can be found on the website in question.
Ticket Resale: An Option for Tourists & Casual Fans
So far, we have covered the avenues to getting a ticket to a football match provided by clubs. In actual fact, in terms of legal, official methods of obtaining math tickets, this isn’t the end of the line though. The ticket resale market continues to grow and while it is frowned upon by some clubs and fans, going down the resale route is the best option for many tourists and casual fans.
Club Resale Options: Visit the Official Club ‘Ticket Exchanges’
Despite the competition to get a season ticket at top Premier League outfits, clubs understand that fans cannot always get to every match. People have holidays, unmissable special occasions (even more important than the visit of Norwich or Fulham would you believe?!) and, what we might in general terms call “life”. Rather than see the seat go unused or have fans give their ticket away to friends and family, many big clubs have created their own resale platforms.
When searching for them you’ll often find that such schemes are called ‘ticket exchanges’ by the clubs. That name suggests that fans are simply exchanging tickets between themselves but many clubs take their cut of the resale revenue. They do this either by taking a percentage of the resale fee or by selling the tickets for cash but refunding the original fan in so called ‘club cash’, which is effectively coupons that can only be spent on tickets or official merchandise.
The official resale options provided by clubs are often only open to members. Fans selling their tickets tend to prefer this as it means that they are being replaced by what they perceive to be fellow genuine fans, but it isn’t great news for tourists who want to visit a match without signing up to a membership.
Beware Illegal Ticket Touts
Ticket touts have been a part of football for decades and decades. Anybody who has been to a big match will have seen the shady looking touts offering to buy or sell tickets to the match around the ground. While it is perfectly legal for touts to buy and sell tickets to gigs or some other sporting events, selling tickets for football matches is a specific offence in UK law.
It was the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 that criminalised the touting of football tickets. For years afterwards, touts were able to get around the law by selling programmes or badges for astronomical amounts and including a ‘free’ ticket as part of the deal but this practice was also specifically outlawed by further legislation.
In theory, the clubs and the police should be on the lookout for touts around grounds, while clubs have employed many strategies, such as cancelling tickets and replacing paper tickets with plastic cards issued in an individual’s name, but you’ll still very much find touts operating today. For many, touts are a blight on the game but for others they provide the only chance they have to see their team in a big match.
Controversial Resale Websites
As with every other aspect of life, ticket touting for football matches has been seriously disrupted by the internet. Websites have replaced many traditional, street-based touts as the route for many occasional fans to get a ticket to a football match.
The resale market for tickets is a controversial subject even away from football. Professionals are able to use software to buy up large quantities of tickets with the sole aim of reselling them for large profits. It’s a major issue for music fans and fans of other sports and, although it’s not a huge issue in football, it is a growing problem. People who do this stop genuine supporters from being able to attend and force up the price that those who can afford it have to pay.
Government Trying to Crack Down
The British authorities do try to shut down sites reselling football tickets as quickly as they can. However, it is difficult for them to act when the websites are hosted internationally and as with so much when it comes down to the internet, a game of cat and mouse played out in legal grey areas ensues.
While it is the selling of tickets and not the purchasing that is illegal, you should be clear that using such websites comes with a big risk. Even if you do your due diligence and check out verified reviews there is a real chance that clubs will cancel tickets on the second-hand market. This will potentially leave the buyers disappointed and out of pocket when they get to the ground and their ticket doesn’t scan at the turnstile.
Regulation Varies from Country to Country
The regulation of the resale market changes from country to country. It is big business in America and also in some part of Europe. For example, large numbers of tourists buy tickets on the resale market for Barcelona and Real Madrid matches while on holiday. Even when completely above board, resale tickets can be very expensive, so it’s always worth exploring the official primary ticket market first.
No Guarantee of a Ticket’s Authenticity
The final word on the resale market is that there is often no guarantee of a ticket’s authenticity. Counterfeit tickets are not common but some nefarious companies can create forgeries that won’t be picked up until you try to scan the barcode so such tickets come with an obvious health warning. This may or may not have been the case at the 2022 Champions League final, with local authorities saying there were a huge number of fake tickets in the hands of Liverpool fans.