Being an English Premier League fan in Australia isn’t easy. Often it involves waking up at 3am and connecting a streaming app to your TV to follow your favourite football team over 17,000km away.
For dedicated Australian EPL fans, one thing is certain: No matter who you support, we all dream of being able to go over and see our teams in the flesh.
A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to chase my dream, moving to Liverpool, getting a job with Liverpool FC at their club store and attending 12 games in the space of 10 months. If you too have spent years dreaming of going to your place of worship to watch your team live – this guide is for you.
My guide for Australian fans of the English Premier League is in 3 parts:
Part 1 – Getting a ticket | Part 2 – Avoiding tourist mistakes | Part 3 – Your first game
Part 2: Avoiding tourist mistakes
Like any other cultural experience, as a visitor you want to respect the routines and traditions of the place you’re visiting whilst also getting the most out of the occasion yourself. Even though sports fans around the world are generally welcoming and want to help each other out, the word ‘tourist’ still doesn’t really have positive connotations… and this is particularly so at EPL games. The Premier League has been built on the passion of dedicated fans – this is a big reason for it being one of the most popular sports in the world. Therefore, it’s important to be aware that a number of EPL fans feel protective of the sport, and feel that it needs to be preserved for ‘die hard fans’.
So here is my advice to help you be more informed and to have the best experience possible when you visit!
Where to sit at your team’s home games
Because tickets are hard to come by, generally you’ll take whatever option is available. If you do get the opportunity to choose your seats, many people are drawn to sitting near the most active, vocal and singing sections of the stadium – usually behind the goals (or the “short side”). This is a great idea to experience the unique atmosphere, but I would only recommend doing so if you are planning to contribute to the singing and you know the chants that will be sung. If not, I’d recommend sitting in one of the other stands. I actually found it much easier to take in the atmosphere from a distance rather than being right in the middle of all of the chants (not to mention your videos and Snapchats will sound better, too!)
Where to sit at your team’s away games
If you are going to try and watch your side play in an away game and the only place you’ve been able to get a seat is in the ‘home’ end then don’t wear your team’s gear in the opposition team’s section.
At Australian sporting events, you can sit and enjoy the match with friends who support the opposing team, but in Europe you are actually not allowed to sit in the opposition’s section. If you do find yourself in one of these sections, don’t be tempted to celebrate if your team scores a goal, and you may even have to feign interest in the home side just to avoid suspicion – especially if it is a derby or a big match.
If it’s suspected you are supporting the opposition or you are found to be wearing opposition gear in the home end then it is very likely the home fans will confront you or alert a steward to kick you out. So again, exercise caution if you choose to sit with the opposition’s fans.
Buying merchandise – avoid the ‘half-and-half’ scarf
Of course you’ll want to buy a souvenir to remember your once-in-a-lifetime experience, but when you see some lads outside the ground selling matchday “half and half” scarves – a scarf that is half the home team’s colours, half the opposition – you should keep walking. I can’t emphasise this highly enough – avoid the half and half scarf – nothing will identify you as a ‘tourist’ more than one of these scarves.
A lonesome Man United-Liverpool 'half-and-half' scarf waits to be bought outside Old Trafford. No takers as yet it seems. pic.twitter.com/ncNeAHqz9Y— AS English (@English_AS) March 10, 2018
Think I’m being extreme? This ESPN article about ‘half and half scarves’ conveys people’s opinions of them pretty well.
Nothing is more likely to draw the ire of locals than someone wearing a half-and-half scarf during a game. Whilst working in Liverpool I noticed that even those sporting the Manchester United logo around the city drew dirty looks from locals, and the occasional cheeky snide remark, such is the rivalry between such teams.
There are rare occasions when it is a little more acceptable to buy one as a memento, such as when you are playing famous European opposition – I have one to commemorate the famous Liverpool v Dortmund match in 2016 – but even then, you shouldn’t wear it to the match.
Better ideas for mementos:
Buy a home matchday scarf – If you must get a scarf that has the matchday info on it, get one in the colours and logo of your own team. You’ll blend into the crowd much easier!
Buy a match-day pin – The same merchandise stalls outside grounds will generally sell pins that have the match and date on it – easier to fit into your luggage, too.
An official match program – They’re generally cheaper than a scarf and are a great souvenir to read back on in a few years’ time.
Your actual match ticket – Who needs the dates printed on a scarf when you’ve got your match ticket! If you have a membership card, head to the ticket office outside the ground, some clubs will print off a physical ticket for you to use and keep instead.
Before the game – What to wear/bring
Many clubs do not wear colours to matches. Liverpool and Manchester United fans are notorious for only wearing black or casual clothes to matches, but don’t let this stop you wearing your colours! A scarf and your team’s kit/jacket is perfect. It is not like in the United States or Australia, with foam fingers or jester hats (unless you want to receive interesting looks from the locals!). Selfie sticks and iPads are banned by many stadiums around Europe, and they can obstruct the view of other fans. Check the stadium guidelines before you attend for what you can and cannot bring – but you should definitely head to your team’s local club store and buy the latest kit!
Before the game – Pubs and pre-match atmosphere
Nothing is more British than the pre-match drink up. This is hands-down the best way to mingle with the locals and learn the songs that will be sung on the terraces later that day. It seems like there is a pub on the corner of every street in England, so there are plenty dotted around football stadiums.
In the hours before kick-off the local bars are generally heaving with football fans, singing and chanting before they head off to the match. Some pubs will have areas to have a meal to so this is the best opportunity to have a drink, grab a bite to eat and save yourself the hassle of buying food and drinks in the stadium, and save a few pounds too.
What do you think, EPL fans?
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