There’s plenty of options for watching sport in London – and although some of it can be quite a pricey affair, there’s some options for cheaper sports events or opportunities to watch it for free!
It’s not surprise that amongst the most popular spectator sports in London, football is right up there. With a whole host of world-class players – both foreign and domestic – playing in the English Premier League, it’s no wonder it’s considered to be one of the most popular football leagues in the world.
However, because of these reason, tickets for Premier Leagues can be incredibly pricey…if you’re able to obtain them at all, that is! The top London clubs – Chelsea F.C., Arsenal F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur F.C. – tend to see tickets for the big games (i.e. against top Premier opposition) sold out very quickly. In some cases, these tickets don’t even tend to reach general sale (i.e. they get snapped up by members) . If you were thinking of buying tickets to Chelsea v. Manchester United…sorry, no go!
However, if you’re really desperate to see a Premiership game, try looking at some of the clubs outside of the top half of the league. Not only are tickets cheaper at these clubs – Fulham FC, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham FC – but they are also easier to obtain. Once again, a “big game” would most likely sell out before tickets are released on general sale, but you might be able to catch a match against middle-level opposition.
Do also consider matches that the above teams play in other competitions. Sure, a Champions League game against one of Europe’s top clubs will also be a sell out, but look at League Cup games, the early stages of the FA Cup, or perhaps even the early stages of the UEFA Cup.
For a whole different experience – why not consider a team outside of the Premiership? Once again, tickets will be cheaper and far easier to obtain. London clubs in the lower divisions include Watford F.C., Charlton F.C., Crystal Palace F.C. and Millwall F.C.
London football stadia are sometimes also the venue for other non-league or cup matches – I went to see South Korea play Croatia at Craven Cottage, Fulham F.C.’s ground, not so long ago! Such international matches take place in London every so often, and can be very easy to get tickets for!
Of course, speaking of international, watching England play at Wembley is another option – though not the cheapest. Depending on the time of year and the opposition (especially if it’s a friendly against a weaker side), once again tickets will be easier to get and there may even be some kind of special deal going, such as family tickets or a 2-4-1 offer.
Say ‘tennis’ and ‘London’ and you immediately think of Wimbledon! Taking place over two weeks in late June and early July, this is hands down a fantastic sporting day out, and we here at London Budget would highly recommend visiting the All England Club during these two weeks for some world class tennis.
Hand in hand with Wimbledon goes the brave souls who camp out overnight, desperate to get tickets for one of the top courts! Luckily, that’s not a necessity if you’re planning on visiting – although to make sure you do get in (as there’s limited numbers of tickets each day), we’d recommend joining the queue at around 8am – 8.30am. Queueing for Wimbledon is a very orderly, very English affair – these days, you get ushered in to a park near the grounds, where you can sit on the grass whilst being part of the queue until the gates open and it gets moving. There’s food available there, and people selling newspapers…and there’s even loos! Smartly dressed ladies and gentlemen patrol the area giving out information or answering any questions that visitors may have.
Unless you camp overnight, it’s pretty much impossible to get tickets for the show courts (Centre Court and Court 1). However, grounds tickets – with which you can watch the action on Courts 4 to 19 – are fantastic value, priced at £20 (2013). We’d recommend going in the first week of the tournament (preferably even in the first two days) when the most amount of play takes place and you’ll be able to see some cracking games on some of the outside courts.
To save a bit of money, it’s also possible to turn up after 5pm and get a reduction on the grounds tickets price. In 2013, these tickets cost £14 after 5pm. And as with many events of this nature, eateries inside aren’t exactly the cheapest places to get a bite to eat in. Therefore, why not pack a picnic and sit up on Aorangi Terrace (more commonly referred to as Henman Hill or Murray Mount!) and watch the action on the big screen there?
Do also note that, once inside, you can queue up for “returns” i.e. tickets for the show courts that have been handed in by the previous owner and that are now being resold. However, these does usually mean another long queue and if a top name or a British player is in action, it can sometimes be a fruitless wait.
LONDON BUDGET TOP TIP: Okay, so you don’t have Centre Court tickets, so you won’t see any of the big names…right? Not necessarily! Head to the practice courts at the very north of the All England Club, where you can see the top names practice – and sometimes even walk past right in front of you! When I went in 2011, I managed to see both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – the two men’s finalists – out on the practise courts!
Other tennis events
Wimbledon’s not the only top-level tennis tournament taking place in the capital. In fact, we’re currently spoilt for choice!
Taking place a couple of weeks before Wimbledon, as one of the few other events in the very short grass court season, the AEGON Championships attract a very healthy amount of the top players in the world. This event takes place at Queen’s Club, a tennis/sports club in West Kensington, just outside central London. Tickets can normally be bought online on the tournament website but, because of the smaller nature of the event, can be quite pricey as most of the action takes place on the main courts. It is still possible to buy grounds tickets, however, although there’s less to see!
The ATP World Tour Finals also take place in London – at the O2 in November each year. Although tickets can be purchased relatively easily online, as befitting a tournament with the top eight players in the world, they can be a little on the pricey side! Each session, however, does involve one doubles’ match and one singles’…so you may be in for some absolutely amazing tennis (and are basically guaranteed to some of the world’s best players in action!).
The famous Oxford and Cambridge boat race takes place on a weekend every March on the River Thames, on a course from just west of Putney Bridge to just east of Chiswick Bridge. There’s plenty of viewing points all along the course (including in plenty of pubs to retire to after the event!) and it’s great fun to get down to the Thames and cheer on your chosen team – a wonderful free event in London. Full details are at The Boat Race website.
One of London’s best events – sporting or otherwise – is the London Marathon. Held on a Sunday every April, the Marathon stretches through a course taking in some of London’s best sites. If you watched some of the Olympic events that took place on London’s streets (such as the marathon events, or the cycling road race ones), you no doubt saw how wonderful it is to have these sporting events with London’s sights as an amazing backdrop. It’s great fun to head down and watch all the brave participants raising quite a sum for charity, although there’s also obviously the professional runners taking part in their own race first. If you’re in London on Marathon day, you should definitely go see it.