When I first began planning a soccer trip to the United Kingdom in the summer of 2019, I had no idea how to buy Premier League tickets, especially from the U.S.
I’m used to the typical ticket-buying channels seen across North American sports. The teams sell tickets to their home games, yes, but a buyer’s first instinct often is to check Ticketmaster or some other independent outlet. And then there’s the secondary market — StubHub, SeatGeek and the like — where bargains can often be found and last-minute tickets are nearly always available.
It’s understandable that the market for soccer tickets in England is not like that, but before attempting to secure tickets myself, I didn’t understand how different it would be.
The major clubs have strict control over the sale of their match tickets — and understandably so, because demand can often be through the roof. After all, we’re talking about some of the world’s most followed sports teams here.
I have navigated the murky waters of trying to buy Premier League tickets on two separate occasions. I was all set to attend two matches — a Tottenham Hotspur fixture in the Premier League, as well as Manchester City’s showdown with Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals.
That trip was scheduled for March 2020, though, and I don’t think I have to tell you why I had to abruptly cancel it.
However, I am now set to return to England next month, just as the new Premier League season is beginning, and I have tickets to THREE matches in hand!
Now, I feel I have a good grasp on how to get into some of the UK’s most popular football grounds, which I’ll outline below. Make no bones about it — it can be a time-consuming, sometimes frustrating and possibly expensive exercise.
But if you truly want to buy Premier League tickets, persistence is the name of the game. Here are some tips for getting into your preferred matches.
Top photo credit: Tembela Bohle / Pexels.com
Step 1: Choosing your dates
If you’re like me (or most people, I’d imagine), you choose the dates in which you want to travel based on your schedule with work, school or other obligations, and then once that timeframe is set, then you go about seeing what events might be happening at your destination during that time.
First off, you have to make sure your dates fall within the normal soccer season in England. The Premier League season typically runs from the second weekend in August to the middle of May, while Champions League matches throughout Europe coincide with this timeframe and typically culminate in the final in late May or early June.
In English football, there are also domestic competitions, namely the FA Cup and Carabao Cup (aka League Cup), that coincide with the Premier League season.
Summertime is typically reserved for international competitions (the World Cup or European Championships, for example). If your visit is in late July or early August, close to the start of the new Premier League season, you may also have opportunities to watch preseason friendlies.
Step 2: Finding your fixture opportunities
It stands to reason that if you’re in the U.S., finding a game for which to buy tickets is as simple as looking at a schedule for the Premier League, or the Champions League bracket, but it’s not that simple.
When the Premier League releases its fixtures for the upcoming season (usually in June), matches are divided into “matchweeks” and scheduled for the Saturday of that week at 3 p.m. British time.
However, only some matches will wind up being played at that time; others — mainly ones involving popular clubs that visitors would often like to see — will get moved up to Friday, or back to Sunday or Monday, and kickoff times usually change as well. This is done to accommodate TV (not unlike the NFL “flexing” a game into the coveted Sunday night time slot), and also to allow clubs to participate in matches for other competitions.
It makes things tricky, though, for the traveler from the USA or elsewhere who wants to buy tickets for matches a few months ahead. In the Premier League, fixture times are set in stages, and for a couple months at a time. In the case of my first trip, I had to wait until late January to find out exactly when my target matches in mid-March would take place.
The Premier League usually sets a schedule for when fixture times will be announced, so it’s worth following them on Twitter or another social media platform to stay abreast of announcements. Similarly, it’s worth keeping an eye on dates for Champions League draws, but at least match dates for every stage known before each year’s tournament begins.
Step 3: Should you buy a membership?
So how, exactly, do you buy tickets for the Premier League from the U.S.? Well, it all begins with the individual clubs. Once you’ve identified a match that you want to attend, you should then check out the ticket-buying procedures put in place by the home club in question.
You’ll quickly discover, though, that for some Premier League clubs — at least, the ones you routinely see near the top of the table — buying a club membership is required to even get into the team’s ticket portal.
For a yearly fee, a membership gets you perks including gifts, team store discounts and exclusive access to club-produced content, but it also gives you the opportunity to buy tickets when they go on sale.
Each club controls its supply for matches regardless of what competition they’re for, be it a “regular” league match or for the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, and so on.
My original plans in 2020 included one Premier League match (Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium) and one Champions League game (Manchester City vs. Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium), so I bought memberships for both Spurs and Man City.
This time around, the schedule gave me opportunities to see Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal. So yes, I bought memberships for all three clubs — for myself and my wife, as every individual who wishes to attend a match needs his or her own membership.
Note that some teams structure their member ticket-buying rules differently. Some, like Manchester City, allow members to purchase multiple tickets under a single membership. But many, such as Tottenham, require each ticketholder to hold an individual membership. When I bought tickets for my original trip from the USA, I needed one Man City membership for the scheduled Champions League match but two for Tottenham so that I could buy a pair of tickets for the league fixture.
So yeah, it can get a little convoluted. But if you’re a fan of a specific club and want to follow them around, then it gets much simpler. Buy the one membership and then you’ll have access to tickets for that team’s road matches, as well — as you may know, European soccer stadiums all have designated visiting supporter sections.
Also, know that for the most popular clubs in England — in my experience, this includes Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea — the demand for tickets makes obtaining them on a single-match basis a challenge, and seniority (as in, how long you’ve held a membership and how many matches you’ve attended) is a primary factor in how clubs allow access to tickets.
If you really want to see a home match for one of these clubs without the hassle of competing with longtime fans, feel free to skip ahead to Step 5.
Step 4: Online sales
Once you have your memberships, then there’s nothing left but to buy the tickets. There’s a unique challenge to this, though, as online ticket sales in Britain are conducted similarly to in the USA, but the time difference can make for some early wake-up calls.
To buy tickets for both matches in the spring of 2020, I woke up at 2 a.m. Pacific time (I live in Southern California) in order to secure seats. I was successful on both counts, so it was worth it.
That experience made me confident that I would score tickets fairly easily for my second go-round this summer. But I failed to take into account the increased demand that comes with start-of-season excitement. For each of the three matches I targeted, I woke up in the middle of the night to buy tickets in the initial single-match release … and struck out each time.
At that point, it pays to know what alternatives you have. Each club has a ticket-resale scheme in place, which allows season-ticket holders to resell tickets they won’t use back to the club. It works similarly to Ticketmaster’s NFL Ticket Exchange, but with one key difference: The resale price is not set according to demand, making them affordable — that is, if you can get your hands on them.
In the case of the Spurs match I wanted to attend, it took three days of constantly checking the ticket portal, waiting for A) a pair of tickets to be listed, and B) moving quickly enough to beat everyone else lurking on the site for tickets. But I finally secured my two tickets, and at £60 per ticket (plus small fees), it wasn’t too bad.
Once you have your tickets in hand, pay attention to each club’s policy on how they distribute tickets. In the case of Spurs, you’re sent a unique mobile pass that signifies you’re a member AND you have a ticket for a particular match. Manchester City mailed their tickets to me, and so even though I didn’t get to use it, I got a nice little souvenir.
Step 5: Should you buy a hospitality package?
OK, you bought the membership and struck out during the various ticket on-sales, or you’ve decided last-minute to try and see a high-demand match, or you really, REALLY want to see a match at Anfield or Stamford Bridge and it’s proving nearly impossible. What to do?
There is one fool-proof alternative: the hospitality package. They don’t come cheap (think somewhere between £300 and £500 per person depending on the club and the match), but anyone can buy them regardless of membership status, and they come with perks such as a catered meal, a stadium tour or merchandise discounts.
Every club offers them, and if you really are that set on seeing the match you want and money is no object, well, buying a hospitality package will certainly help you achieve that goal.
One thing I would NOT advise is going through the secondary market. The English clubs tend to offer some stern warnings about not accepting tickets bought second-hand, going so far as to claim popular portals like StubHub are blacklisted.
I’m sure people do get in with second-hand tickets, or tickets bought on the street, all the time. And I have come across secondary English football ticket sites that appear reputable enough, and probably are considered reliable by many customers.
But if you’re visiting from outside the UK, would you want to spend that kind of money, come all that way and then find out at the gate that your tickets are no good?
Step 6: Enjoy the match!
Congratulations! You made it! Taking in an international sporting event is a favorite pastime for me, and one I’m thrilled to take advantage of now that I’m finally getting my chance to go to England.
About Edward de la Fuente | Itinerant Fan
I live for sports, and I love to travel. My biggest thrill is combining the two. I’ve been blogging about sports travel for more than a decade, and traveling for sports for twice as long. To find out more, check out our About page.
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Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I am in the completely same situation you found yourself when you wrote this (every time you said I, you could replace it with my name.).
This is a huge help and I plan to use it try to see my beloved Spurs!
Thanks Jim! Hope you’re able to get over to London soon! Spurs have a really beautiful stadium.
This was fantastic and bookmarking it! Also there are supporter clubs all around the world and sometimes they might have an “in” for tix.
Thanks for the kind words, and great shout on the supporter clubs! Haven’t done it myself but I have definitely heard of folks securing tickets that way.