How To Get Tickets To Premier League Games In London: An Inside Guide
Your flight to Heathrow is arranged. You have packed a primary umbrella, a backup umbrella and an emergency umbrella. You have your Oyster card ready to use on the Tube. Plans have been made to visit a proper chipper (fish and chip shop). I highly recommend Golden Union near Liberty of London. Fantastic! A trip to the British Museum is on the agenda. As are many visits to pubs. Check out The Friend at Hand, near the British Museum; but, frankly, it is hard to go wrong with pub selection throughout London.
Being a sports fan, you want to catch some football but selecting a match can be daunting. London is home to 14 (14!!) clubs that play in the top four divisions of English football. If you find the organization of English football daunting, read “Bloody Confused” by American sportswriter Chuck Culpepper. It is a hilarious education on English football. The professional clubs are spread throughout Greater London and are usually named for their local neighborhood. And with clubs participating in the FA Cup, the League Cup, European competitions and their primary leagues, matches can be found most days of the week. So, how do you select a match?
It is easy if you have an allegiance to a certain club but, beware, if that club is playing away against another London team, you can’t simply buy a general ticket. The English Football Association and the general leagues employ a visitors' section where fans for the away side must sit. While not popular with many, that is the policy. So, if you are an Arsenal fan and want to catch the Gunners when they face fellow London side West Ham United at West Ham’s stadium, Upton Park, you must go through Arsenal to purchase the tickets and you will be sitting with your fellow Gooners in some quarantined corner of the arena. It is not a perfect solution but that is the rule throughout England.
The easiest way to see your club is to catch a home game…but that can be easier said than done, especially for teams in the Premier League. If your heart is set on seeing a Prem team play in London, we would recommend looking at tickets for League Cup matches or European group stage ties, they are usually played on Tuesday or Wednesday nights.
Also, if you like to enjoy a beer or seven while at a sporting event, a trip to an English football stadium will present some obstacles. During league matches, beer can be purchased and drank on the concourses. During European matches (Champion’s League or Europa), no beer (or any other alcohol) is sold on the grounds.
Finally, if you have scored tickets and bought a jersey, you will want to brush up on your new favorite team’s songs. I have included a link to that tune, when applicable.
Buying Premier League Tickets In London
London is home to five Premier League teams: Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. Each side has fiercely loyal fans that fill their home ground for most matches. With this in mind, all of the London clubs offer deals for memberships for purchase that allow one to purchase tickets before (and if) they are offered to the general public. Membership is basically the only way, and the best deal, to purchase seats for Premier League matches. One way to think about membership is like frequent flyer programs. While you can get a certain amount of access by simply paying more at some point, the only way to get better status is to buy tickets over a period of years. Not an optimal model for someone dropping in to see one match.
Buying Arsenal F.C. Tickets
Stadium and Transportation: The Emirates Stadium is a modern arena that opened for the 2006-2007 season, and seats 60,260. Two London Underground stations service the Emirates: Arsenal Station and Highbury & Islington Station.
History: London’s most successful side, Arsenal, owns 43 trophies from major competitions including 12 FA Cup championships (the most in England) and is the only team to go through an entire Premier League campaign without a loss—the 2003-2004 “Invincibles”.
Membership: Red Membership is the basic membership level. For roughly $45 USD, you can join for a year. The Red Membership is the fourth tier in Arsenal’s offering, behind Platinum/Gold, Silver and Junior Gunners.
Ticket Outlook: Bleak! Arsenal is second in the Premier League behind Manchester United for total attendance and they sell 99.4% of their tickets. If your heart is set on seeing the Gunners, buy a Red Membership and check their European schedule. If you succeed in acquiring Arsenal tickets, you may want to read Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, a lifetime Gunner.
Song to Learn: “And it’s Arsenal FC”
Buying Chelsea F.C. Tickets
Stadium and Transportation: Stamford Bridge. Founded in 1905, seating 41,798. Two London Underground stations service Stamford Bridge: Fulham Broadway and Earl’s Court.
History: The current Premier League champions and only London club to win the UEFA Champion’s League, the Blues were purchased by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in the summer of 2003 and – with an influx of capital from their new owner – became an immediate championship contender. Chelsea won its first league title under Abramovich’s ownership in 2004-2005. It was the first time in fifty years that the Blues had won England’s top division.
Membership: True Blue Membership is the basic level and costs roughly $38 USD for a season.
Ticket Outlook: Not good. Chelsea sells 99.3% of their tickets at Stamford Bridge. Membership is the only way to purchase seats and, even with a True Blue beginner’s membership, your best bet is a European group stage match.
Song to Learn: “We’ll Keep the Blue Flag Flying High”
Buying Crystal Palace Tickets
Stadium and Transportation: Selhurst Park. Founded in 1905, seating 26,309, it is situated in the London Suburb of South Norwood. As the stadium is more suburban, transportation using the national rail system from Central London is best. Selhurst Station, South Norwood and Thornton Heath are all close to the Park.
History: Founded in 1905, Crystal Palace has bounced back and forth between England’s top two divisions. Palace returned to the Prem in 2013 and has remained up the past two seasons, finishing 10th last year.
Membership: The Silver Eagles Membership is the base level and costs roughly $38 USD to join. Membership is the only way to purchase home tickets.
Ticket Outlook: Not terrible. Palace had the lowest percentage of tickets sold in the Prem for a London team at 91.7%, but their 10th place finish last year and great form during the beginning of this season has made tickets scarce. With the relatively low percentage of sold seats, coupled with the club’s distance from Central London, Crystal Palace may be the best option for someone trying to take in a Prem contest in London.
Song to Learn: “Glad All Over”
Buying Tottenham Hotspur F.C. Tickets
Stadium and Transportation: White Hart Lane, seating 36,284. The nearest London Underground stations to the stadium are Tottenham Hale and the Seven Sisters tube station.
History: Founded in 1882 as Hotspur F.C., the Spurs are two-time league winners and have also won the FA Cup seven separate times.
Membership: The Lilywhite membership is the basic membership option and costs roughly $75 USD. Membership is the best way to purchase tickets to White Hart Lane, but you can find some tickets available to the general public
Ticket Outlook: Bad, but not too bad. The Spurs have stumbled out of the gates in the Prem and thus tickets (albeit bad ones) are available to the general public for upcoming Premier League matches. In addition, if you are in London during the weekdays, there are seats available for upcoming Europa League matches.
Song to Learn: “Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur”
Buying West Ham United Tickets
Stadium and Transportation: Currently Boleyn Ground or Upton Park, seating 35,303. The Hammers move into the Olympic Stadium for the 2016 season, which will hold roughly 54,000 for football. The nearest London Underground stop to Boleyn Ground is the Upton Park Station.
History: Founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks and then reformed in 1900 as West Ham United, the Hammers have been a fixture in East London for 120 years.
Membership: Non-UK residents can purchase an Academy membership for roughly $70 USD. Membership is the only way to buy home tickets.
Ticket Outlook: Impossible. West Ham has the highest attendance percentage in England, 99.8%. Your best hope is to practice and hopefully get picked up as an international transfer. However, when the Hammers move into the Olympic stadium next year tickets could be easier to get….but it is unlikely.
Song to Learn: “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”
In summary, Tottenham is your best option to see a Premier League side without having to buy a membership to access tickets – but hurry. If Harry Kane finds his stride, the only way to access White Hart Lane will be through the Lilywhite membership route.