Football, or soccer, is undeniably the most popular sport in the world. Every four years, millions of people get caught in football fever during the World Cup. FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, suggests 1.5 billion people watched the 2022 final, roughly equivalent to 4.5 times the population of the USA. Yet football is a sport that thrives beyond this nail-biting global competition.
Cricket might be the national sport, but football in England reigns supreme in popularity. From global sporting giants like Manchester United to the Isles of Scilly, home to the smallest football league in the world, there is no corner of this ancient land untouched by the iconic 32-panel ball.
From the roar of the crowd, alive with the call of football chants, to the cone of salty chips to wrap chilled fingers around, there is a unique charm to a football match, no matter where in England you watch it played. Read on to discover the best way to experience football in England and why it really is the beautiful game.
Football is the most popular sport in England and the world. However, to the uninitiated, the offside rule, 18-yard box and a free kick are akin to another language. So what is football?
Also known as association football or soccer (from the slang of the former, ‘assoccer’), football is a game played in 45 minute halves between two opposing teams. Teams of 11 compete to score goals by shooting a ball into a net at the opposite end of the pitch, with the winner being the team with the greatest number of goals scored during the match. Players can manipulate the ball with any part of their body except their hands and arms.
Football is played at every level across England. Teams play across many leagues, earning promotions or dropping down leagues depending on the success of each sporting season. In the late 1800s, the English Football League was the first of its kind in the world. Today, the EFL covers dozens of professional divisions, from the best teams competing for ultimate prestige in the Premier League to countless amateur teams making up the lower end of the competition. With thousands of games played yearly, there are plenty of opportunities to watch great football in England. The top five football leagues in England are:
The word ‘football’ has not always meant the sport we would recognise today. From ancient Mesopotamia and the Chinese military over 2500 years ago to the Roman game of Harpastum, there is a long history of humans playing a foot ball sport.
Ball sports played with the feet are not limited to ancient civilisations. In the early 1300s, the Mayor of London banned a game akin to football in the city. A century later, the Football Act of 1424 banned the sport across Scotland. While these iterations of Medieval Football are not the same game we would recognise today, they show the long-established love for ball sports in the UK.
The modern game of football was born in England in the mid-1800s. In the 1840s, the University of Cambridge played a game with the first known set of modern football rules, the Cambridge Rules. Further north in Yorkshire, Sheffield Football Club played by its own set of rules by the 1850s. As lines blurred between rugby and football, and multiple sets of regulations existed within football, the Football Association was founded in London in 1863. Less than a decade later, England and Scotland played the world’s first international association football match, and the FA Cup was born. By 1888, the first association football championship was in the works. The rest, as they say, is history.
The impact of the formation of the Football Association was felt across the pond in the United States of America too. A hybrid of rugby and association football, American football (also known as gridiron football or football) has been played in the USA since the 1860s, where gameplay was based on the Football Association’s rules.
While pitch sizes and the player kit’s colour might change, several core elements remain unchanged regardless of where your clients watch a football match in England.
From the smallest stadium of 2,000 spectators to Wembley, the largest stadium in the UK with a capacity of 90,000, the air within on matchday is alive. Opposing team supporters compete for the loudest chants for their heroes long before the game begins. The anticipation of the match about to unfold raises hairs on the back of necks. Many stadiums offer hospitality packages and private boxes to enhance to match experience. These provide a more refined version of the pre-match exhilaration than being right in the heart of the unchecked crowd.
Minutes before kick-off, players for both teams head onto the pitch, and the atmosphere reaches a fever pitch. There is the inevitable last-minute dash as latecomers jostle for their allocated seats in the stands around. On the pitch, the two team captains meet with the referee to determine who is scoring which way first before the sharp cry of the whistle indicates the commencement of battle.
Carefully designed boots race across the pitch, the white pitch lines stark against the manicured green grass. Unique kits, marking friend from foe, allow fans to quickly determine their team’s success as they fight for possession of the ball. 90 minutes of gameplay later, as the final whistle blows, a crowd previously united in their emotions and passion for the game in front of them is divided. Half fall into their hard plastic seats in despair at a loss, the other half hugging strangers in the same colours, proud of the game fought and won by 11 brave strangers.
Football is so popular in the UK because it unites people, creating a sense of kinship. Come rain or sun, there is a camaraderie to be found standing shoulder to shoulder with your fellow spectators. Football stadiums are custodians of a unique kind of magic – an atmosphere only football fans can generate. This experience awaits your clients at a football match in England. Let’s work together to create the perfect event for them. We’ve included some of our favourite experiences below, but we can source tickets and hospitality packages for most English clubs.
Chelsea is a giant on the English football scene, and the reach of The Pensioners is global. A latecomer to the football scene – Chelsea FC wasn’t formed until the early 20th century – the club has gone from strength to strength over the years. Chelsea recently won the UEFA Champions League for the second time, during the 2021-22 season.
Chelsea has played at Stamford Bridge in England’s capital city, London, since their formation in 1905. Their current stadium is just outside the top 10 of England’s largest football stadiums, with a capacity of over 40,000. With such an extensive history in the area, the stadium offers an excellent experience for visitors on matchdays and beyond.
Throughout the year, tours of the stadium and Chelsea FC museum offer an enriching insight into the club, from its early days to its greatest victories. Your clients will enjoy an hour of discovering the stadium’s secrets with a knowledgeable guide. Elevate the experience with a 90 minute tour and Q&A session with a Chelsea FC Legend.
For the full day out with Chelsea FC, there is nothing like matchday. Whether your clients are looking for standard seats in the heart of the action of a luxury hospitality package, Stamford Bridge offers something for everyone. From the Diamond Suite – offering a meet-and-greet with a 1st team player, a four-course meal before kick-off, and premier balcony seats – to the pre-match Chelsea FC Legend Q&A and padded seats of the UTB Sports Lounge, Chelsea’s hospitality packages offers a unique layer to your client’s experience of football in England.
Modern football can be traced to two versions of the game played in the mid-1800s in Cambridge and Sheffield. Today, the city in Yorkshire is home to the oldest independent football club still playing in the world (Sheffield FC, founded in 1857), the second-oldest professional football club in England (Sheffield Wednesday, founded 1867) and Sheffield United.
Sheffield United might be a latecomer to football in the city, but its stadium is arguably the birthplace of the beautiful game. In 1862, Brammal Lane hosted its first football match. The game was between the two oldest football clubs in the world, Hallam FC and Sheffield FC, both football clubs based in Sheffield. Bramall Lane has also been the site of the first football cup final and the first football game played under floodlights, amongst other football firsts. A former cricket ground, the stadium is one of only two in England that has staged both an FA Cup final and Ashes Test Cricket.
Standing amongst such history, a great game is almost guaranteed. Your clients can discover more about the club’s history on a stadium tour or experience football in a stadium that has housed the beautiful game for more than 160 years. Enjoy an authentic experience in standard stadium seats, or let us arrange hospitality for your clients, including lunch pre-match with a Sheffield United Legend or the best padded balcony seats in the stadium. Bordering the Peak District, and only a 90 minute drive from the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors National Parks, a Sheffield United home game is the perfect pause in any adventure through these spectacular national parks.
Nestled between the Cotswolds, Chiltern Hills, and North Wessex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Oxford is a charming city of history and culture. Oxford is best known for the second-oldest university in the world, the University of Oxford, and the first public museum in the UK, the Ashmolean Museum. Head to the south of the city for the home of Oxford United FC.
Founded as Headington United in 1893, the club did not change its name to Oxford United until 1960. After a few dips in success, the last decade has seen the club make a strong comeback up the leagues, and this is undoubtedly a team to watch. Your clients will surely enjoy a lively atmosphere in The Kassam Stadium as The U’s battle their way up the league tables of the EFL.
The Kassam Stadium is infamous for only having three stands rather than the usual four, but don’t let that fool you. A bustling matchday experience here is as entertaining as any four-sided rival. Whether your clients prefer a standard ticket amidst the die-hard fans or premium seats in the upper stands following a two course lunch with a club guest of honour and before the Man of the Match presentation, let us arrange this bespoke offer.
Hopping over the border from England, Wrexham AFC is Wales’ oldest football club and the third oldest professional club in the world behind Hallam FC and Sheffield FC. Wrexham AFC has recently gained media attention after Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the club in 2021. The following year, the first season of ‘Welcome to Wrexham’, a documentary series focusing on the duo’s club ownership, aired on FX on Hulu (USA) and Disney+ (UK).
With a historic past and Hollywood backing, Wrexham is a club that has been slingshot out of obscurity and is rising through the ranks. The current team continues from strength to strength, and this small stadium packs a punch, with many games selling out.
Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, in February 2023, Wrexham AFC announced that its women’s team was going semi-professional in a bid to reach The Adran Premier, Wales’ highest league competition for women’s football.
Fewer than 4 miles/6 kilometres from the Wales-England border, Wrexham is an up-and-coming club with a lively atmosphere that your clients will love. Let’s give their football experience the Hollywood treatment together.
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