The cost of following football: Managing your money during the Euros

The UEFA European Championship, or the Euros, is one of the most exciting events for football fans. The thrill of the matches, the camaraderie, and the festivities make it a special time.

However, it’s also a period when spending can easily get out of control. Whether it’s buying tickets, merchandise, or celebrating with friends, it’s important to manage your money wisely to ensure you can make the most of this time whilst being financially sensible. Football, like life, has its ups and downs, and sometimes we find ourselves in vulnerable financial situations. This could be due to financial stress, unexpected costs, engaging in friendly football bets, or simply feeling isolated. During exciting events like the Euros, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make financial decisions that might not be in our best interest.

We’ve pulled together some top tips for managing your budget during events like the Euros - and if you want some practical examples, read on to find out the details from England super fan Lee Cowell, who told us about his experience driving from the UK to watch England play in Germany, how much it’s cost, and how it’s affected his spending.

Our top tips for managing your budget during the Euros

Set a budget and stick to It

Before the Euros kick off, plan your spending as there can be many costs involved with being a fan. It is important to consider how much you can afford to spend on fun activities, whether this be on tickets, kits, and travel - even simply watching the matches at the pub, or the occasional friendly wager with friends can add up. Set a clear budget and stick to it.

You may even find it useful to use a budgeting app or a simple notebook to keep track of your expenses. This helps you see where your money goes and keeps you from overspending.

Prioritise your spending

Covering essentials first is important. Make sure all your essential expenses—rent, bills, groceries—are taken care of before you start spending on the Euros. It’s a lot more fun to watch the games knowing you’ve got your bases covered.

Even during the excitement, try to put some money into savings. Every little bit helps and can provide peace of mind for the future.

If you’re willing to commit to larger costs, then plan ahead so you can prioritise the things that matter the most to you. Lee told us that “the tickets for this tournament are some of the most expensive I have come across compared to other tournaments I’ve been to, like Qatar. My tickets for England have cost me £100 per game and that’s through the England Supporters’ Club.”

He said “For other games for Denmark, people ended up paying £600 for a ticket. I looked at getting tickets for Albania v Spain and they were going to be £250 to go and watch them. Instead, I went to watch the game with Albania fans as I have a friend who is from there and it was amazing. I got an Albania shirt and had a flag, and it was the best experience of the tournament so far which is strange. They love it when English people support their team. They lost 1-0 to Spain but you would’ve thought they had won the tournament; they were in their element.”

Take a leaf out of Lee’s book - even without spending hugely on expensive tickets, the experience is what matters, and the memories you’ll have.

Save on food and drinks

Whenever possible, pack snacks for game days or cook meals at home. It’s cheaper and often healthier than eating out and is also a great way to bring your friends and family together. Weather (and win) permitting, it may be the perfect time to have a BBQ or something that lets everyone contribute, bringing down costs but increasing the fun. You can read more about the best places to grab your BBQ essentials here.

Take advantage of promotions at local supermarkets or use apps that offer discounts on food and drinks and reserve dining out for special occasions or after-match celebrations.

Even if you’re planning on seeing an event in-person, you can find ways of keeping to a budget. Lee told us “In regards to drinking, not many people are going to pubs or bars because you can go into a shop and buy cans of beer - and in Germany, they let you drink in the street as you are walking. I have been going to Lidl to keep the costs down and I found beers that cost €0.40, which have been great.”

“For food, I have mainly been eating kebabs - they are everywhere but the best I have had is the Podolski Kebab Shop, which Lukas Podolski owns!”

Smart merchandise purchases

Merchandise can be tempting, with new designs and kits being released for special matches and every season but it’s not always reasonable to purchase every time. Avoid impulse purchases of jerseys or souvenirs.

If you are purchasing, buy only what you truly want and will use and check for official merchandise sales, especially online. Sometimes, buying directly from the team’s website can be cheaper.

Watch games strategically

Even if you’re planning on watching sporting events on TV, you can make the most of public viewing areas and enjoy the atmosphere of public screenings or fan zones, which are often free or have a nominal entrance fee. This also means you’re free to bring your own food and drink.

Lee told us “I’m living in what I would loosely call a campervan which is a Transit van with a bed in the back alongside all of my clothes. There’s no toilet or shower. But I’ve been staying with friends on a site that has toilets and showers, and there’s lots of free parking and places to park campervans in free spots along the way in Germany. All I have is a bed - it’s been hard to keep my phone charged but I have been charging it at restaurants and anywhere possible.”

For the 2024 Euros, all games can be streamed for free on either ITV or BBC meaning you can also turn to home viewing easily. Host watch parties with friends and family. Sharing the experience can make it more enjoyable and cost-effective.

Travel costs

Travelling to watch sports can get expensive quickly - though, of course, there are ways to economise.

Lee spent £100 on a ferry to the UK, but told us “I’ve only paid £150 for petrol in the van so far from Dover to get to everywhere in two weeks. The only issue I had was getting a flat tire. Apparently Transit tyres are hard to come by in Cologne, so I had to go to seven different tyre shops in a taxi which cost me a £200+ round trip. Luckily, I bumped into a mechanic, and he sent me in a taxi to get the tires. Seven different tire shops later, I found a shop and the tire was €100, the taxi was €120 and the mechanic helped do it for me so that was my biggest expense so far.”

Lee travelled from Coventry to Rochester - around a three-and-a-half-hour journey. He stayed with his brother before driving to Dover, and took the two-hour journey on the ferry to Calais. From there, he drove to Gelsenkirchen - “it was a four-hour drive, and I went across France, Belgium and Holland to get there”, Lee says.

“The good thing is, they kept England in one area throughout the group stage games. We did have to travel to Frankfurt, which was two hours, but I stayed in Gelsenkirchen followed by Essen and then went to Frankfurt and met some friends. I’ve now slowly worked my back as we are back in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.”

Whether you decide to travel as far as Lee or just plan a few excursions to watch the game with friends, make sure your travel costs are a part of your budget.

Stay informed

Make sure you do your homework. Whether you’re buying something or placing a friendly Euros bet, do a bit of research first. Know what you’re getting into and make informed decisions. It’s part of being a smart spender.

It is also extremely important to stay vigilant online, as big events like the Euros can attract scammers. Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true and always buy from reputable sources.

Seek help when needed

If financial worries start to negatively affect your life, reach out for help. Many organisations offer confidential support and counselling services. For more information on effective money management, visit www.moneyhelper.org.uk for help in always making informed and safe choices.

The Euros can be a thrilling time, but it’s essential to approach your finances with caution, especially if you are in a vulnerable situation. By setting strict limits, seeking help when needed, and making informed decisions, you can enjoy the tournament responsibly. Remember, effective money management is key to maintaining financial stability and wellbeing. Stay safe and take care of your finances during this exciting period.

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