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In Pursuit Of Real Football:

The Soccer Fan’s Ultimate Travel Guide To

Attending EPL Matches In England

By The Gaffer

First Edition, published July 2008 by EPL Talk.

This ebook is free and you are welcome to copy it, print it out, post it and share it with

Please don’t sell it or alter it.

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The electric atmosphere of a Champions League match at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

Dedicated to Stephen Nigel Harris


1. Pros And Cons Of Package Tour Operators

2. When To Go
3. Where To Go
4. Money Saving Tips
5. Getting Around
6. Local Culture
7. Stadium Tours
8. Official Football Websites
9. Supporters Clubs In The United States
10. About The Author
11. Copyright Information

Built in 1892, Everton's Goodison Park is nicknamed The Grand Old Lady.
Think about the most recent Premier League season and picture some of the exciting
matches you watched on television. Incredible goals, roaring fans, the unbelievable
comebacks and the teams fighting for Champions League spots or to avoid the perils of
relegation. No wonder so many sports fans consider the English Premier League one of
the most exciting soccer leagues in the world.

But stop for a second and contemplate how much more incredible it would be if you
could experience those matches in person instead of just on television. The thrill of
sitting among 25,000 to 76,000 fans in some of the cathedrals of English soccer, some
of which date back to the late 1800's. Hearing the songs bellowing from the crowd,
seeing world-class players up-close, and feeling those shivers running down your spine
when you hear the ball smack the back of the net and the fans erupting inside the

It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it can be yours.

I know what you're saying. You can't afford to fly to England. Even if you could, you
wouldn't be able to get tickets or you wouldn't know what to do, or how to get around
England. Sure, you'd love to go, but it's impossible, right?

Absolutely not. In the next 24 pages, I'll show you how you can make your dreams come
true and how you can save more than a thousand dollars to see your favorite club in-
person this season.


There are many companies in the United States and around the world that offer travel
packages to see matches in the United Kingdom. The services that XL Travel and PSG
Sports provide are excellent but the price you pay for these packages can cost more
than $3,000 for a 9-day trip (airfare not included).

Here are examples of how much a typical package tour would cost through XL Travel
and PSG Sports:

If you prefer to go with these group packages, that's fine but realize that you'll be
spending inflated prices. Instead, in this ebook, we provide you a step-by-step guide of
how you can save more than a thousand dollars and schedule the trip when you want to
go, giving you a lot more freedom and flexibility to customize the trip to your needs.

In fact, I've already done a trip like this myself, so I know from first-hand knowledge
how to do it.

In contrast, here's how much it cost me the last time I went to England for a 10 day trip,
where I saw Everton against Bolton, Blackburn versus Spurs, Arsenal v Hamburg (in
the Champions League), Fulham against Reading, and Manchester United versus
PSG Sports's Premiership 2009 Fan Tour is the closest comparison to my Premier
League tour. You would have saved $1,085 by following the tips provided in this EPL
Travel Guide. Plus you don't have to worry about sharing a hotel room with a stranger!

Package tours are not for everyone. If you want the flexibility to plan your own tour, pick
the matches you want to see and save money, then a package tour isn't a good idea. But
if you want to save more than a thousand dollars and take the trip of a lifetime, take a
deep breath, grab a pen and paper and let's get started.


1. Pick the best time of the year to visit. The Premier League season runs from
August through May. Typically the most expensive time to visit England is during the
summer months between June and August. Airfares to England (London or
Manchester) are usually the cheapest between September and March.

2. Be creative when asking for time off work. You'll need to factor in how many
vacation days you can take and how to seek permission from your boss to take the time
needed. If you're like most of us, taking time off work is usually a challenge, but here are
some helpful tips.
• Tip: Schedule your vacation time around a holiday. For example, if you live in
the United States and you don't mind missing that Thanksgiving turkey, late
November is an excellent time to visit England.

To give you an idea of what's possible, here's the itinerary from my November 2006 trip
(complete with a map, pictures and an audio travelogue):

View the interactive map from my trip so you can zoom in on the stadiums.

• Friday, November 17: Worked 9-2 and then caught the plane from West
Palm Beach to Manchester, England at 5:40pm ET.

• Saturday, November 18: Arrived in Manchester at 9:40am GMT and rode

the train to Liverpool (read article). Attended Everton v Bolton match at 3pm
GMT (hear audio and see photos).

• Sunday, November 19: Spent the morning visiting Liverpool's Anfield

stadium and the Hillsborough Memorial (see photos). Departed Liverpool by
train to Blackburn. Watched Blackburn against Tottenham match (hear audio
and see photos), and then stayed the night in Manchester.
• Monday, November 20: Took train from Manchester to London. Toured
Arsenal's Highbury Stadium (see photos). Hear audio travelogue from the day's

• Tuesday, November 21: Went on an amazing adventure to south east

London to find the remains of Arsenal's Invicta Ground from 1894 (see photos).
Then visited The Valley ground, home to Charlton (see photos). That night, went
to Arsenal against Hamburg match. Hear audio travelogue from the day's

• Wednesday, November 22: Took the Emirates Stadium tour (see photos),
went to the Arsenal museum (see photos) and then took a trip to Tottenham's
White Hart Lane (see photos). Hear audio travelogue from the trip to north

• Thursday, November 23: Traveled around London. First stop was Chelsea's
Stamford Bridge stadium tour (see photos) followed by a trip to Fulham's Craven
Cottage (see photos) and West Ham United's Boleyn Ground (see photos). Listen
to the audio travelogue from my adventures around London.
The rear of the Craven Cottage at Fulham's ground in west London.

• Friday, November 24: Day off for rest and relaxation at my cousin's house in
the suburbs of London.

• Saturday, November 25: Spent the day at Craven Cottage to see Fulham
against Reading at one of the quaintest stadiums in England before heading to
Manchester by train that evening. Listen to the day's experiences on the audio

• Sunday, November 26: The final match of the tour was the biggest one yet:
Manchester United against Chelsea at Old Trafford (see photos and hear the
audio travelogue).
The Gaffer and friend Charles Walters at Manchester United's Old Trafford.

• Monday, November 27: Caught my flight from Manchester back to Florida.

Now you can easily plan a trip like mine or make it your own. Here's how to do it:

Look at the calendar and write down the date of the Friday before Thanksgiving. If you
head directly from work to the airport on that Friday evening, you can leave that night to
fly to England (most flights to the United Kingdom are overnight from the U.S.). You'll
arrive on the Saturday morning usually around 8-9am UK time. That gives you plenty of
time to leave the airport and head to a football match. Remember, most kickoffs in the
UK don't begin until 3pm, so you have approximately six hours to get to your hotel,
check in and head over to the ground.

The next day, Sunday, usually offers a few different matches you can watch around the

Then Monday through Friday of that week can be spend exploring England, going to
mid-week matches, experiencing stadium tours or whatever you'd like to do. You can
return home from the United Kingdom the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day and arrive
back in the States that same afternoon.

If you work in corporate America and your company pays you holiday time for
Thanksgiving Day and the day after (better known as "Black Friday"), the only days
you'll need to use for your vacation time are the Monday through Wednesday leading up
to Thanksgiving Day. That means you'll enjoy nine days of vacation while only using up
three vacation days. Nice deal, right?

In a typical week such as the above itinerary, you can squeeze in approximately four to
five professional matches pretty comfortably.

If you're not able to travel to England during the week of Thanksgiving, take a look at
other national holidays to see how many days you can take off without impacting your
vacation time too severely.

Or if you can afford to take vacation days whenever you want throughout the year, more
power to you.


3. Figure out which matches you want to see in England. Do you want to
schedule your visit so you can see Premier League matches during the same week as the
Champions League, FA Cup or even a Carling Cup final or FA Cup final at the new
Wembley? Your best bet is to study the Premier League schedule to see which matches
you'd be interested in seeing.

Note: Beware of international matches throughout the season where the Premier
League takes a break for one to two weeks. Also keep an eye on the Champions League
schedule where you may be able to see the best teams in Europe such as Barcelona, Real
Madrid and Inter Milan play away in England. Also be aware of last minute schedule
changes due to clubs changing their kick-off times or dates because of live TV coverage.

When considering which matches to go see, the good news is that the three biggest
international airports in England are close to the big soccer clubs. London's Heathrow
and Gatwick airports are both a train's journey away from the center of London.

The other major international airport in England is Manchester, which is centrally

located in the north of England and not far from Liverpool, Birmingham (home to Aston
Villa and West Bromwich Albion) and other cities especially in the north west of
England where football has its roots.

Here's a map showing the locations of all 20 Premier League clubs. You'll notice that
most teams are congregated around the north west of England and in London:

4. So now that you know what time of the year to visit England and you have
a rough schedule written down, the next step is to find an inexpensive

Knowing when to buy an airplane ticket is crucial. Buy it too soon or too late and you
may end up paying double the price of the stranger sitting next to you. Sometimes flight
prices change radically day to day or even hour to hour. Instead of scouring the Web for
hours and ruining your eyesight, I have a website for you that will save you hours of
work and hundreds of dollars. It's called Yapta and it's FREE.

Yapta is a website that compares rates across several different airlines for your preferred
flights. What makes Yapta different is that you can track flights you're interested in and
then the site will notify you via e-mail when the price changes. So by setting up a few
different flight options with different airlines, you can sit back and receive emails
whenever the prices fluctuate. Visit Yapta.com to learn more.

Another fantastic resource is Farecast. The website predicts when the best time to
purchase plane tickets is, so it eliminates the guessing game of wondering whether
you're getting a good deal on your plane ticket or not. The site also graphs fares over the
past 30 days so you can see when ticket prices go up or down.

Also check out Airfare Watchdog which offers e-mail alerts when prices drop and other
helpful features similar to Yapta.

Here are some of the preferred airlines that fly to England and back:

• Virgin Atlantic
• IcelandAir
• British Airways
• American Airlines
• Delta AirLines
• Continental Airlines
If Yapta, Farecast and Airfare Watchdog don't give you what you need, try searching
other travel sites such as Orbitz, Hotwire, or Expedia.

• Tip: When selecting which airport to fly to the United Kingdom, choose one of
the following:
◦ Heathrow Airport (London),

◦ Gatwick Airport (London), or

◦ Manchester Airport (Manchester).

Most of those airports offer direct flights to and from the United States to England.

A moving walkway inside Manchester Airport at night.

5. Next step is purchasing tickets to the games, all of which can be done
online from anywhere in the world using a credit card. Whatever you do, don't
buy tickets from scalpers outside stadiums in the UK. There's no need and it'll cost you a
You can purchase tickets from the official website for the club that's playing at home
(refer to the Official Football Websites section near the end of this ebook). If that team is
Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United or Chelsea, you'll have a tough time trying to get tickets
because many of them are already snapped up by season ticket holders. Instead of
spending too much time praying you'll get tickets from those official websites, your best
bet is to contact the official supporters clubs for those teams in the United States (see
the Supporters Clubs In The United States section at the end of this ebook).

Many times they'll have an allotment of tickets available to members even if the game is
sold out. For a very affordable membership fee, you can become a member of the
supporters club and purchase tickets through them.

Inside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge during their stadium tour.

Whether you buy tickets through the official website or an official supporters club, you'll
often pick up the tickets from Will Call outside the ground on matchday.

If you're unable to get tickets through the official club websites or supporters clubs, try
Via GoGo, which is a website that sells unused tickets.
As a last resort, visit the club's ticket office on matchday to see if they have any extra

6. Save time and money by purchasing your currency ahead of time. If you
wait until you get to the airport either in the US or UK to buy British pounds, you'll end
up paying a lot more money as well as not getting a good deal on the currency rates.

I've been using a company named International Currency Express for more than decade.
You can order the British currency online and pay with a credit card and then have the
money shipped to your home before you leave the country.

To calculate how much your money is worth in British pounds, visit the currency
converter site XE.


7. Book your transportation ahead of time. After flying overnight to the United
Kingdom and feeling groggy, the last thing you want to worry about is how to get to your
final destination. So instead of paying expensive cab fares, book your transportation
ahead of time.

You may be surprised to learn that, once you're in England, flying to destinations within
the UK is often cheaper than renting a car for the route. The domestic airlines in the
United Kingdom and Europe are extremely competitive and, as a result, the airfares are
sometimes ridiculously cheap. Depending on where you're traveling to in the UK, be
sure to check the rates from these airlines for air travel:

• Easyjet
• Ryanair

If you're not sure which airlines fly to and from the local airports in England that you're
interested in visiting, check these official websites:

• Liverpool John Lennon Airport

• Manchester Airport
• Newcastle Airport
• Birmingham Airport
• London Stansted Airport

8. Ride the airport express trains. If you're arriving at Heathrow or Gatwick

Airports, ride the special express trains that take you into the heart of London. You can
save money by booking tickets for these trains online before you leave your home.
Purchase tickets at the Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express websites.

Outside Arsenal's previous home, Highbury Stadium in Islington, London.

9. Purchase a BritRail train pass. If you're planning on traveling mostly by train

while you're in the country (definitely recommended if you're planning on visiting
several cities), I highly recommend you buy a BritRail train pass that will give you
unlimited train travel based on the type of package you buy.

On first impression, the prices may seem high, but you can often save money and have
the flexibility to get on and off the train as often as you like. Purchase a BritRail pass
online. If you need to check train schedules and find out where the train stations are
located in the UK, visit the National Rail website.

There are plenty of train routes linking major cities in England. Major ones include:

• London to Edinburgh: Includes a stop in Newcastle.

• London to Manchester
• London to Liverpool
• London to Birmingham

10. Purchase underground tickets ahead of time. Planning on spending a couple

of days or more in London? You'll definitely want to purchase tube (aka underground)
tickets before you leave for England. You can buy them at the London Underground
stations, but they'll definitely be more expensive. Order them instead online.

If you're in London for two days or more and have time for sightseeing, I recommend
the open-top Double Decker tour buses in London which will allow you to see all of the
highlights of the city from your seat. You can get on and off the bus as often as you like,
or sit back and enjoy the sights. Book ahead of your departure to England and save.

11. Book your car rental ahead of time. If you're feeling adventurous and want to
drive on the opposite side of the street in England, save a ton of money by booking your
car rental on the internet before you arrive in the UK. Helpful sites with great discounts
include Sixt or Alamo.

• Tip: If you want to do your own research for car rental prices, use the term "car
hire" instead of "car rental" when you search in Google. In fact, your best bet is
to search via the UK version of Google.

The major cities within England are connected by motorways, the American equivalent
to highways. The most widely used one is the M1 Motorway that links London to Leeds.
The M6 begins near Birmingham and links major cities such as Manchester and

If you do plan on driving in England, be sure to read How To Drive In The UK. The web
page features helpful tips. One important point to take into consideration is that very
few cars in the UK feature automatic transmissions. Most of the cars are stick-shift, so if
you do want to rent a car with an automatic transmission, be sure to reserve one ahead
of time via the car rental company's website.

The Gaffer pitchside at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium during a tour of the ground.

12. Make a list of the stadiums you'd like to tour. Before you head to the UK, do
some research to see what stadium tours you'd like to attend while you're there. Many of
the soccer clubs offer behind-the-scenes tours of their stadiums. Many top clubs feature
museums too such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. Find out more through
the Official Club Websites section near the end of this eBook.

13. Research British hotels before you head to England. For years, British
hotels have had a bad rap. They've been criticized for having rooms that are the same
size as closets and not very clean. Thankfully, the newer models of British hotels are
some of the best you can find. However, hotel prices are very expensive especially in

You can book hotels ahead of time. Before doing so, review the virtual tours and
photographs of the hotel on sites such as Visit Britain, Hotwire and Expedia UK. And
check the ratings by fellow travelers at TripAdvisor.

Another option is to stay at a bed and breakfast, also know as a B&B. Bed and breakfasts
are often private homes with only one or two bedrooms available for commercial use,
but they provide bed accommodation and breakfast for very low nightly rates even in
large metropolitan cities. For a comprehensive guide to bed and breakfast
establishments, visit Bed And Breakfast Finder.

When selecting a hotel or B&B, try to find one that's near main transportation routes
such as train stations and bus terminals, but not too close where the buses and trains
will keep you awake through the night. The advantage of being close, but not too close, is
to reduce the need for taxi rides and grueling walks as you carry your luggage around

If your hotel or B&B is not within walking distance from the train station or airport, be
reassured that the United Kingdom has a reliable public transportation system. The
buses are run by different local companies throughout England, but if you're interested
in riding a bus between major cities, your best bet is National Express -- which is similar
to the Greyhound Bus Line in the United States.

14. Purchase phone cards before you head to England. If you're planning on
calling home when you're in the UK, purchase phone cards in the US before you head to
England. You can purchase phone cards at your local Wal-mart store, but make sure
that the cards will work overseas (read the back of the phone cards carefully). Also
before you head to the UK, find out what the toll-free number will be that you'll need to
dial in the UK to use the card (typically an 0800 number). Call the phone card company
and then write the number on the back of your card with a Sharpie pen so you won't
forget it.

Paisley gates outside Liverpool's Anfield stadium.

15. Don't forget that you need a passport to enter the UK. If you're a US citizen
and you don't have a passport or you need to renew yours, go online for all of the details.

16. Buy a travel adapter before you make the trip. The electrical sockets and
plugs are completely different in the UK than in other countries. Just google 'travel
adapter' to find the best deals or, better yet, visit your local Radio Shack store.

A large part of the pleasure of experiencing the Premier League in person is what
happens before the game where fans congregate and start singing their songs before
walking in unison to the stadium.

Members of Arsenal America supporter's club party in a London pub before a match.

Usually every Premier League club has a local pub in the vicinity of the ground which is
the preferred gathering place for home fans. Before you head to England, ask the people
on the supporter club websites where the best pubs are.

• Tip: Some pubs only cater to away fans and don't allow home fans inside. So if
you're wearing the club colors of the home side, don't walk into the away pub
and vice-versa.

By getting to the pub a couple of hours before kick-off time, you'll be able to bond with
the fans, share a few pints, learn some songs and take in the whole atmosphere of what
it's like to experience a Premier League match.

Arsenal fans march toward Emirates Stadium for a night match.


Seeing Premier League matches on TV is one thing, but actually being there in person is
a whole different experience.

I'll never forget my 10 day trip from 2006. The time when I met former U.S.
international Brian McBride after the Fulham match. Or my luck at seeing two of the
goals of the season in 24 hours when Mikel Arteta scored for Everton against Bolton, or
when Blackburn's Tugay scored a rocket against Spurs. Then I was treated to a screamer
of a goal by Rafael van der Vaart for Hamburg against Arsenal in the Champions
League. The list of highlights from my EPL adventure goes on and on.

The intent of this ebook is for you to enjoy a similar adventure.

By taking the steps outlined in this guide, you'll save more than a thousand dollars.
Sure, the steps will take some time but when you arrive in the UK, most or all of your
plans will already be arranged. This way, you can make the most of your trip of a lifetime
and soak in the passion and tradition of the world's most popular sports league, the
English Premier League.

Feel free to share your stories about your trip, as well as your photographs, and I'll
publish the best of them online at EPLTalk.com. Email me at thegaffer@epltalk.com

Enjoy the trip of your lifetime!


The Gaffer

• Arsenal
• Aston Villa
• Blackburn Rovers
• Bolton Wanderers
• Chelsea
• Everton
• Fulham
• Hull City
• Liverpool
• Manchester City
• Manchester United
• Middlesbrough
• Newcastle United
• Portsmouth
• Stoke City
• Sunderland
• Tottenham Hotspur
• West Bromwich Albion
• West Ham United
• Wigan Athletic

• Arsenal
• Aston Villa
• Blackburn Rovers
• Bolton Wanderers
• Chelsea
• Everton
• Fulham
• Hull City
• Liverpool
• Manchester City
• Manchester United
• Middlesbrough
• Newcastle United
• Portsmouth
• Stoke City
• Sunderland
• Tottenham Hotspur
• West Bromwich Albion
• West Ham United
• Wigan Athletic

• Arsenal
• Chelsea
• Everton
• Fulham
• Liverpool
• Manchester United
• Newcastle United

In no particular order, cheers to Phil McThomas of Soccer Shout and Clever Football
fame for his honest and concrete feedback he provided after reading an early draft of
this ebook, Debbie Harris for her patience and taking care of the two bairns (soon to
be three for her and four for me) and Ian Griffiths for keeping me honest and striving
to achieve the best while eliminating the hype.

Blackburn fans show their team pride at Ewood Park.


The Gaffer (aka Christopher Harris) has been following football/soccer for more than
30 years. Born in Wales, he is a former journalist who now lives in Florida and spends
his time analyzing the influence of the Premier League worldwide. In 2005, he founded
EPL Talk.

EPL Talk has been a pioneer in providing the ultimate Premier League experience to
football fans worldwide.

Its EPL Talk Chat brought thousands of soccer fans together from around the world to
share the experience of live Premier League matches. Its EPL Talk Podcast was the
only Premier League interview show bringing frank and intelligent interviews to the
internet. Featured guests included Rodney Marsh, Toby Charles, Patrick Barclay and
more than 100 others.

Today, EPL Talk provides readers with intelligent Premier League news and analysis to
more than 150,000 unique visitors each month.

Experience the difference at EPLTalk.com.

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