Groundhopper Guides’ “Rules” for Attending Soccer Games in England

Groundhopper Guides’ “Rules” for Attending Soccer Games in England

Heading to a football (soccer) game in England? Want to make sure you don’t commit any faux-pas, social or otherwise?

Well, we have been to more than 100 games around the UK, so read on to see our advice for attending a game without annoying your neighbors or getting in trouble.

  • Get there well before kickoff. You want to catch the pregame pageantry, such as the players coming out and fans singing traditional songs, and you also don’t want to be that person coming in after kickoff. In the UK, that person is quite rare. And getting there may well take longer than you think—especially in London.
  • Don’t plan to get up while the game is on. One of the best things about English soccer is the lack of people walking around during the game; there aren’t even food or drink vendors in the stands. People sit and pay attention to the game—what a concept.
  • Remember it is illegal to take alcohol to your seat. You will probably find that you really like this feature.
football supporters having a cup of tea inside the stadium

These Derby County supporters brought in their own tea! At least, we assume it was tea …

  • Study up on the teams you’ll be watching, especially the one whose fans you’re sitting with. It will add to your enjoyment, but it’s also a good way to strike up a conversation with your neighbor. For example, if they’re a Manchester City fan, ask if they saw Agüero score that goal.
  • Watch your colors. While studying up, check for the primary colors of both today’s opponent and your neighbors’ biggest rival. Don’t wear either. Your author made the mistake of wearing a red coat into Everton’s Goodison Park once—when they weren’t even playing Liverpool. Won’t happen again.
  • If you’re cheering against your immediate neighbors…don’t. Keep your loyalties to yourself, unless you’re surrounded by the same. And don’t wear anything showing support for the wrong team either. You’ll probably get tossed—for your own safety.
  • Put away your colors outside the ground if you’re one of the away fans. Remember the safety rule: it only takes one nut job to cause trouble. 
  • Learn some of the songs. When your neighbors start singing some of their favorites, or even a common classic, stand up and have a go!

  • Don’t ask your neighbors to explain the offside rule (or anything else) to you. Many of them will assume that foreigners are ignorant of the game and culture; don’t prove them right! Learn offside before you go. For starters: it’s “offside,” not “offsides.”
  • Toss a (single) friendly line at your neighbor to see if they want to chat. “Fancy your chances?” is a good one to start with. You could also ask about a song or something else, then say, “It’s my first time here.” If they don’t respond to this, leave them alone! If they smile and ask where you’re from…game on!
  • Maybe don’t call it “soccer,” even though the British made up that word and still use it often. Especially when it comes from an American, “soccer” really gets under their skin.

Understand there are different rules for the above at big-time Premier League clubs and lower-league outfits. At clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal, tourists are common, and the locals might be less amenable to chatting. At a place like Blackburn Rovers, you might become something of an attraction.

The bottom line is that what you think is a fun distraction, for them might be close to life or death. So don’t get in their way of enjoying it, but also give them a chance to share it with you.

 

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