It’s estimated that a whopping 120,000 Irish fans head to England every year to watch their favourite football teams. The Premier League is considered by many to be the greatest league in the world, providing shocks and upsets on a weekly basis and showcasing the talent of some of the planet’s biggest sports stars.
Whether you’re hoping to see your side clinch some silverware, avoid the drop at the bottom or you just want to marvel at the spectacle, travelling to a game is a very special occasion.
If you are thinking of crossing the Irish Sea for a match, try and plan as far ahead as you possibly can, but bear in mind this can be tricky. Match days and kick-off times often differ from the fixture list that is published before the start of the season, due to television rights and other tournaments.
You can be fairly sure that the weekend of the match won’t change, but times are not set in stone until the television schedule is final – bear this mind when booking anything.
Liverpool fans at Anfield
You’d imagine with stadiums like the Emirates or the Ethihad holding around 60,000 supporters that tickets for Premier League games would be easy to come by. Not exactly. People travel from all over the world every weekend to see the top clubs in particular.
If you are on the hunt for tickets, there are a few things to watch out for. If possible, try to secure your tickets before you travel. Touts and rogue opportunists are rampant outside grounds, taking advantage of eager visiting supporters and trust me; you will stand out from the regulars.
The safest way to buy tickets is directly from the club. Each one has its own purchasing system and you’ll need to research this as membership may be required.
Another option is to find your side’s local supporters’ club which may have connections and contacts to source tickets from. There are a number of these clubs in every county of Ireland with social media your best way to find them.
Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge
Flying to the UK is pretty simple with a number of airlines offering numerous flights every day from all of the country’s airports. You can shop around for value when booking as well. Don’t forget to arrange travel insurance before you go, though. AA Travel Insurance offers annual multi-trip cover for just €23 per year – perfect for regular match-goers!
Unfortunately, flights tend to be dearer on weekends when the clubs with most Irish fans play at home. These are Manchester United, Liverpool and the big London clubs – Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea. If you are heading over to see any of these, look into the option of flying into another city (e.g. Liverpool for Manchester or vice versa) and getting the train to your final destination.
The railway system in Great Britain is not only the oldest in the world but also one of the most extensive with 2,560 stations. Chances are, your destination will be on or near a rail line. thetrainline.com is a great site for checking timetables and booking tickets on all of the rail services in Britain.
Try to be as organised as you possibly can in terms of getting to the game on match day. Most football grounds in England are situated in residential areas. With large crowds attending and strict security operations in place, it’s inevitable that fairly major traffic delays will occur.
Try to use public transport if you can; most cities and towns are well served when it comes to match-day transport, with dedicated taxis and buses from a designated pick-up point to the ground. This is the safest and most efficient way to travel.
Information on this can be obtained from tourist offices and club websites, and you should ask around in supporters’ clubs as well if you happen to be a member.
Going to the football is an expensive business, so whether you’re on a particularly tight budget or just trying to save as much as you can for match-day refreshments and souvenirs, you’ll need to choose your accommodation carefully.
Manchester has a number of AA-approved hotels in the city centre including Premier Inns on Mosley St, Portland St and Victoria Bridge St. These would be ideal if you’re heading to either of the city’s stadiums and they’re lighter on the pocket than many others.
If you’re off to Liverpool. the 4 star AA-approved Hard Day’s Night Hotel on North John Street in the vibrant Albert Dock packs a bargain at £79 per night.
If London is your destination, you have a massive amount of options with hundreds of AA-approved hotels and B&Bs located throughout the capital. You can find a comprehensive list of these here.
You’ll also find recommendations of pubs, bars and restaurants you can check out wherever you’re visiting, assuming you’re not too full from your half-time pie!
One last piece of advice. Going to a Premier League game takes a good deal of preparation and is a special occasion so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to actually enjoy the day in full.
Go to the ground as early as you can. If you want to visit the club store or check out the atmospheres in the fan zones, factor in even more time. Expect large crowds and long queues. Tight security operations are in place at every ground so expect a wait before you get to your seats.
I’d advise you to be there around 90 minutes before kick-off, so whether you’re walking down Anfield Road, seeing the Eagle fly at Selhurst Park or watching the Arsenal Clock tick towards 3pm, you’ll have time to soak it all up. After all, who knows when you’ll be back again?
Main pic of Manchester United and Manchester City fans by Duncan Hull, used under CC BY 2.0 licence
Picture of Liverpool flag and fans: Pixabay
All other pictures: Shutterstock