Whenever you try to buy Premier League tickets, especially at one of the big clubs, you will run into these things called memberships.
But what are they? And do you have to buy a membership to get a ticket for English soccer?
The answer to the second question is, often you do. But let’s back up a little and talk about what memberships have to do with getting tickets.
Why Memberships? To Reward Loyalty
Let’s say you are Groundhopper FC, and you have a big game coming up. Suddenly everybody wants a ticket, but you want to reward the folks who have been with you all the time. So you start by putting tickets on sale only to your season ticket holders, who can buy an extra one or two, and next to others who have been buying tickets all along and have contributed to the club. These are your Members. It’s only after the Members Sales that tickets go on General Sale to the public — if there are any left.
As a supporter, by becoming a member of Groundhopper FC, you express your loyalty, create an account with them, pitch in a little cash, and let them keep a record of your purchases. You also get perks like a newsletter, patch or sticker, discount at the team store, perhaps access to a lounge on game days, and so on.
Even at the bigger clubs like Liverpool, a membership is generally less than 40 pounds per year. Most clubs also have a youth membership, and some have several options, including an international or “light” membership.
Loyalty Still Counts
Just getting a membership to, say, Liverpool, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to see them play Manchester United. That’s because after the season ticket holders, members then get access based on their loyalty points. And you get these by buying tickets, which means right now you don’t have any.
Sometimes this becomes a dead end – like when Bournemouth were in the Premier League, for example. They have an 11,000-seat stadium, so if you weren’t buying tickets when they were nobody, then you basically never will, because every game sells out to season ticket holders and members with more points than you’ll ever get — since you can’t get tickets to Bournemouth and all. (Maybe this will change now that, as of the 2020-21 season, they are down in the Championship.)
The same is true for big clubs, if they are playing another big club. For example, if Chelsea are playing West Brom, you might get a ticket on General Sale. If they are playing Tottenham, you’ll need a membership, and maybe points as well.
When You Always Need a Membership
The really big clubs have basically made a membership required to ever buy a ticket. For the most part, this is just recognizing the enormous demand, trying to keep track of everyone, and, of course, squeezing a few more quid out of us. But it’s a hoop you will have to jump through if you want into Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
Even with a membership, some Premier League clubs are just about impossible. For example, I have maintained a membership with Liverpool for three years, just to try and build up some points. So far, in those three years, I have managed to buy exactly one ticket, on a Tuesday night in the League Cup against Swansea. Even after they expanded Anfield, and even when they were playing Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup, I couldn’t get a ticket, membership or no.
When You Probably Need a Membership
If a fairly big club is playing another fairly big club, like Chelsea-Spurs above, you will probably have to get a membership. Or if it’s a cup game with a big team coming in, like when Liverpool had to go play at Plymouth.
Sometimes, though, it might be a club you’ve never heard of – but a really big game for them. For example, I once went to Norwich City, and they happened to be playing Ipswich Town. That, for both teams, is the biggest game of the year, so then I really wanted to see it. So say hello to the newest member of Canary Nation!
If you’re looking at one of these smaller clubs, send an email to their ticket office to confirm tickets will probably be on General Sale and when.
When You Won’t Need a Membership
Basically, the rest of the time. Barnsley home to Blackburn Rovers? Step right up! Swansea City home to Brentford? Just pay attention to that “general sale” date and get on it.
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If you absolutely positively must see Man U, and they are playing Man City, and it’s your only shot at Old Trafford, there is another (expensive) option: the hospitality package. Now you’re talking a few hundred bucks per person, but you’ll be there.
There is yet one more option that I don’t discuss because I don’t do it: the black market. The one (semi) exception was when I went to the local Craigslist for a Liverpool FA Cup ticket and found somebody selling for face value or less. And I got to go to the game with her, too!