Tips For an England Football Match
November 14, 2016 5:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm taking a football-loving six-year-old boy to the England v. Spain friendly at Wembley this week. This will be the first pro football (or "soccer," for Americans) match either of us have ever attended, and I know next to nothing about the sport. What advice would you give me for having a fun and safe night out?

Oh, and in addition to welcoming any and all general advice, I have a specific question. The six-year-old wants to wear his Spain football shirt, but I bought our tickets through the England Supporters club, so I assume we'll be sitting with England fans. Is he going to get hassled? I believe we'll be in the family enclosure, FYI.
posted by yankeefog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
Read the fine print that came with your ticket. Tickets, especially ones sold to supporters of a specific side, sometimes come with restrictions as to what you can wear.
posted by hoyland at 6:30 AM on November 14, 2016

Have done a few soccer trips with younger son, including a Chelsea - Real Sociedad match in London (he would have been 9 at the time).

Just some thoughts really:
We made a day of it - visited Tower Bridge and had a nice lunch out before heading to the stadium early. It was not too busy when we arrived so had some time to look around a bit outside, buy our programme and find our seats without a huge crush. We watched the teams warming up on the pitch and that was enough to keep us entertained for an hour or so.

If you can find in advance where the team buses might arrive (presuming they're not already there...) it'll be worth seeing if you can find a spot to watch from, might see some famous faces up closer. Ask the stewards - they'll probably be willing to point you in the right direction.

Wrap up warm!!! Hats, gloves, scarfs, hoods, the works - it gets cold sitting down for a match at this time of year, even if it's quite mild. And take some food with you, unless you fancy the rubbish they sell at over-inflated prices inside the stadium...

Take a camera with a decent zoom - pretty obvious really, but might be a nice way to get some good souvenirs, kid with stadium in background, in seat, of the pitch, etc. Don't try and get a DSLR in though... they're not really apreciated, discreet is better.

At the end, specially if you're on public transport and it's been a "full house" - either get out a little early (you'll see other peple leavng before full-time) and beat the rush. Or, stay on til a good part of the stadium has cleared. Being in a large crowd wasn't much fun for my son even though he was quite tall for his age - he was swamped by the sheer number of people. Kept a good grip on his hand too!

Overall, be as relaxed as you can be, that'll help him in the crowds.

And on the Spain top... personally wouldn't because there's really no point sticking out even in the family enclosure, but hoyland's advice is the best you're going to get here.
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

It makes me sad to say this, but England at Wembley is probably the worst introduction to watching a match live: you get the spectacle of the arena and the big crowd, but there's something a bit off about the atmosphere compared to a club match. (Controversial opinion: NFL games work better at Wembley than England matches.)

Practical tips: arrive early, expect security checks at the gate and queues for everything. Once you're inside, you'll be paying through the nose for concessions, so fill yourself up with drinks and snacks ahead of time.

For your little one: check the ticket conditions, and if there's no restriction on what you can wear, make sure he has a jacket to cover his shirt for the walk to and from wherever you're getting your transport. Scope out the people you're sitting around before showing his colours: the family enclosure should be okay here, with lots of kids around, but you can't bank on it. (England matches at Wembley don't have a hooligan problem, but they do have an arsehole problem.) There's also no shame in leaving early, especially from a friendly, if you want to beat the crowds: this applies doubly if you're taking the Tube.
posted by holgate at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2016

Thanks everyone. I promise not to threadsit, but just to update: I took hoyland's advice and checked my tickets, and they do indeed forbid the wearing of the opposing team's colors. This actually makes my life easier, since the decision is now out of my hands.

Two follow up questions based on the excellent advice you've all given me:

• How early should we plan on getting there? The entrances open at 18:30 and kick of is at 20:00. We will be arriving via Tube.

• I suspect the 6-year-old will not want to leave even one second early, so that means waiting until the stadium has cleared. Any tips for things to do while we're waiting? (I mean, Wembley specific tips, aside from the obvious universal ways of distracting a 6-year-old.)
posted by yankeefog at 8:05 AM on November 14, 2016

In response to the additional question - I'd get there for 18:30 (or even slightly earlier - but I'm weird like that...) - gives you the most options to look around and see what's about. The time goes pretty quickly and there's plenty to watch as the stadium fills up and they prep for the game.

If you're waiting at the end - see if you can get down the front of the stand you're in. From what I can find out, family seating is Blocks 105 to 108 so, unless that has changed, you should be able to get relatively close to the pitch and be able to chat to anyone who is there. I doubt there'll be any players about by that point but there'll be people clearing up - to be honest, it'll be a bit boring... be prepared with distractions. Good time for photo opportunities though - see which bits of the stadium you can get in the background, selfies and the like :D

There's tips about a young visitor's wristband here: for the worst case scenario of getting separated. You can also get a "view from your seat" if you know where you'll be which might give some ideas: You may well already have found these links yourself...
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 8:31 AM on November 14, 2016

On the plus side, there's very unlikely to be any violence at a Wembley international match, especially in a midweek evening. However, be aware that you are likely to hear offensive or swearing language, quite possibly in football supporter chants. If your six year old is of a "What does that mean?" questioning nature, you may need to have a few stock answers ready.
posted by Wordshore at 10:24 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

The best time to arrive depends a lot on where you're coming from. Part of the experience is the leisurely 10-15m walk along Wembley (um, Olympic) Way from Wembley Park tube with other supporters, but getting there around 1800 from central London puts you squarely in the rush hour. If you can head in earlier, then you can always look at the retail stuff and wander around the concourse as the crowds arrive. If you're starting from outer NW London, you have more flexibility here.

Your strategy on the way out depends again on where you're heading. The big bottleneck is back to Wembley Park, but there are always extra trains laid on and police/security to stop people at various points along the way to ensure that the station isn't overcrowded. If the Bakerloo line or Overground is more useful, then Wembley Central is a little further away, and there's also the Network Rail station that goes to Marylebone: both of those stations will have more trains and carriages than usual, but not as many as Wembley Park. Wander where you can while the initial rush clears out.
posted by holgate at 1:20 PM on November 14, 2016

Should be a great game! England is on its way up, and Spain down. Spain still is better, but not like in 2010. I'd love to see some of England's young lads up against Spain!
posted by persona au gratin at 12:02 AM on November 15, 2016

If you want to get there extra early and have a bite to eat, there is a new shopping mall right next to the stadium which has all the usual pizza places etc there. There you can look at your programme and see who's in the starting line up by using your phones, etc, which is nice for kids.
If you get in to the stadium an hour early you can stroll around and get merchandise, and the stars will come out to warm up on the pitch before the game at some point, which is worth seeing for a youngster.
You don't say if you're unused to stadium sports events or just football, but also: wrap up warm!
posted by Coda Tronca at 4:45 AM on November 15, 2016

Thanks everybody! We had a great time, and your advice was extremely helpful.

In fact, the one disappointing aspect of the experience was the one area where I didn't follow your collective advice. I didn't bring snacks, because I was willing to pay stadium prices if it meant lugging less stuff with me. The problem ended up being the selection -- there were many places to buy food inside Wembley, but generally sold the limited handful of things, none of which the 6-year-old was in the mood for. So next time, I'd bite the bullet and bring food that I know he'd like.
posted by yankeefog at 1:23 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

« Older Converting house doorway temporarily into a...   |   Watching videos from Twitter on Windows XP isn't... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.