Since buying Premier League tickets is pretty much the goal of 99% of American fans, and since Chelsea FC are one of the biggest clubs in England – and the defending Premier League champions – there is obviously a lot of interest in how to get tickets to Chelsea matches.
Allow me to attempt an explanation.
How Chelsea Tickets are Allocated
Let’s say Chelsea have a home game against Team X on January 31. Sometime in December, season ticket holders will get a chance to buy additional tickets – probably only one if Team X is another bigshot like Manchester United, maybe more if Team X is Burnley. This stage goes for about a week.
The following week, paid members will get to buy tickets, with the number determined again by who Team X happens to be. (Read more about memberships.) And this process goes by loyalty points, which are earned by purchasing tickets. So early in this stage, members with lots of points can buy tickets; typically the number of required points drops by the day until this stage ends.
If there are still tickets around – and if Team X is Man U there won’t be – then the rest go on what’s called General Sale. That’s me and you, assuming we’re not members. (Membership, by the way, runs about £26 per season for tickets only, £90 for the full package.) During this General Sale period, it’s quite hard to get more than one seat together, no matter who Team X is.
Sometimes the general sale period is only a few weeks before the game, which makes it hard to plan your trip.
Ticket Exchange for Members
Let’s say a season ticket holder or member has tickets they can’t use – and they have scruples, meaning they aren’t going to scalp them for hundreds of pounds. They would release those tickets into the official Chelsea FC Ticket Exchange, which only paid members can access. This is a total crapshoot, something you have to check pretty much every day, and made all the harder if Team X is a bigshot.
A hospitality package is simply a ticket plus some other perk. This could be a stadium tour, a pregame meal, access to an otherwise private lounge, a chance to meet former players, whatever. Each club has these, and at big clubs like Chelsea, they are myriad. (Read more about hospitality packages.)
You can get them straight from Chelsea – they are called Matchday Packages – and you can also get them from third parties, which call them Match Breaks or Hotel Breaks. These folks tend to combine a ticket, or a regular Chelsea package, with a hotel room in London.
You can also get hospitality packages from yours truly. I am an official registered reseller through a broker who buys them in bulk from Chelsea and other clubs. Very briefly, what I have to offer for a typical Chelsea game includes:
- Seats in the middle tier around the penalty area, with a three-course meal, free non-alcohol drinks, and a match program
- Upper-tier seats around the penalty area with access to a lounge before and after the game, lesser food than above but a full free bar
- Upper-tier seats along the goal line with a museum pass, a mini behind-the-scenes tour on match day, two-course meal, drinks voucher for the concourse, and former players you can meet
- Upper-tier seats along the goal line with a voucher for an evening bus tour of London
- There are other options, with prices all over the place, but the cheapest for a game against Swansea would be around $125 each, and the highest for the game against Liverpool would be about $800!
Welcome to the completely insane world of Premier League ticket prices.
This would be folks like Stubhub or other less-known sites offering tickets. All I can say about these is that I have never dealt with them, and that readers I have heard from have never been ripped off but have occasionally found them frustrating to work with and the seats not that great.
I’ve had one experience with Craiglist, which I used to get into a Liverpool cup game (see below). I only felt good about this because it was a member who was going to meet us outside, walk us in with her membership cards, then stand with us on the The Kop. Good times.
Easier Tickets: Cup Games
Buying Premier League tickets is one thing; buying a ticket for a League Cup or FA Cup game is something else entirely, especially in earlier rounds when the competition is from the lower leagues.
These tickets can be easy and cheap, but you should understand that Chelsea may well play their reserves, and the opponent may be somebody you’ve never heard of. Still, it’s a way into Stamford Bridge.
This, in the case of Chelsea, means the Champions League for the 2017-18 season. If we’re talking about a group-stage game against somebody you’ve not heard of, this is around $200 through me. When you get into knockout games against some other European hotshot, that’s a whole different ballgame.
Playing the Novice American Card
Occasionally, and especially with low-level Premier League games and cup games, I encourage people to just email or call the ticket office and tell them some version of “I’m an American, I’ve always dreamed of seeing Chelsea, this whole ticket thing is kind of confusing, so what can I do?” At the bigger clubs, although I can’t confirm this, I am convinced they hold some tickets back for calls just like this – not for the Arsenal game, but maybe for West Bromwich Albion? Well, it’s certainly worth a call.
The Bottom Line
First things first: Call or email them and ask about the game you’re looking at. Ask about the odds it gets to General Sale, whether a member without points has a good shot at a ticket, and what hospitality options are available.
If you’re just looking for one ticket to one game, I would probably buy a membership for the season and then go to work on the ticket exchange. But if it’s a big opponent in the Premier League, that probably won’t work, either. At that point, you’re into third parties or hospitality packages.
If you want more than one together, unless it’s a cup game or a midweek small-time Premier League opponent, you probably won’t have any luck through the club, membership or no. Again, it’s third parties or hospitality packages.
Bonus Idea: Check out Smaller Clubs
I know that you (and/or your teenager) wants to see Chelsea, but if it’s going to cost hundreds of dollars per person … well, you have to make that call for yourself. But having been to more than 100 games all over the country, I can tell you I would much rather go to a lower-league game, if it’s a local rivalry or some other big event, than pay God-knows-what to sit with the other tourists and watch Chelsea dismantle some nobody.
So I would encourage you – instead of or in addition to your Chelsea FC experience – to check out one of the many lower-league clubs around London. There are two within walking distance of Chelsea, for example!