Football in London

London, with its 16 fully professional teams and many thousands of amateur clubs, is undoubtedly the footballing centre of Europe.

London, with its 16 fully professional teams and many thousands of amateur clubs, is undoubtedly the footballing centre of Europe.

International stars like Thierry Henry and Frank Lampard, both recently short listed for World Player of the Year awards, thrill not only capacity crowds in the capital, but also a global audience of millions.

Just as passionate, although maybe lacking some of the stars’ dazzling skills and glamour, are the huge numbers of Londoners that give up their Sunday afternoons to get muddy and have a go themselves. Hackney Marshes recreation ground alone contains an astonishing 87 full size pitches!

The history of London Football

The popularity of the game dates from the end of the Nineteenth century, when the great fall in church attendance left people searching for a way to spend their weekend leisure time. Leyton Orient FC was London’s first serious professional team, founded in 1881 after league football had already become well established in many Northern industrial towns.

Over the next 25 years clubs sprang up all over the capital. The majority of these teams are still thriving in the 21st century.Arsenal and Chelsea

Football in modern London is dominated by Arsenal, whose new £350 million home in Ashburton Grove, North London, is due to be completed by the summer, and English Premiership champions Chelsea, who greatly benefited recently from a lucrative takeover by Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich. Advance booking is a must for non-members wishing to attend a high profile fixture featuring these clubs, and the tickets available on the open market are frequently sold out within a couple of days of going on sale.

Football Match Tickets

The pleasure doesn’t come cheap either; a seat at Chelsea’s 42,000-seater Stamford Bridge stadium, near Fulham Broadway underground station, can sell for up to £60. Tickets are usually made available to the general public approximately a month before match day. Contact details for these clubs can be found here: City Guide - Sports Venues.

London is also host to 4 other clubs playing in the Premiership. Tickets for matches involving these teams are generally slightly easier to come by, and a little cheaper than those for games featuring either Arsenal or Chelsea.

Game Admission

Getting admission at the gate on a match day is still far from certain however, and early booking is still advisable. North London’s Tottenham Hotspur, traditional rivals of the two big clubs, are renowned for their attractive style of play, as are West Ham, now regaining their status as serious contenders after some years of under achievement.

Further South, Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium on the North bank offers an intimate atmosphere in which to watch a game of football, and an opportunity to spot celebrity Harrods owner, and, since 1997, Fulham chairman Mohammed Al-Fayed in the stands. Charlton Athletic, the only major club based south of the river, completes the list of ‘top flight’ teams.

The quality of football displayed by the ten London teams who compete in the three lower divisions of the Football League is extremely high. These games also have the added advantage for the more casual spectator of rarely selling out; tickets are almost always available on the gate for prices considerably smaller than those for Premiership games. Admission to a Leyton Orient home game is a mere £10.Non-League Football

For a real taste of English football culture however, a trip to a non-league football match is essential. A huge number of semi-professional and amateur teams participate in an extraordinarily complex league system, with hundreds of games taking place in London every weekend.

Even some of the most minor clubs have dedicated supporters that will be stood on the sidelines in even the fiercest snowstorm. Although difficult to find in anywhere except the larger newsagents, the weekly British Football newspaper contains incredibly detailed and up-to-date information on non-league football. The website is also extremely informative.


Author: Peter Brett

Useful Links

- London Sport Venues
- London Football Association