It doesn’t have to cost the earth and you can even get paid for it!
London offers some of the best opportunities to watch live sport in the world, but like everything else in the capital, it can be expensive. If you’re a rugby fan, tickets aren’t considered to be too bad, but in fact a good seat for one of Harlequin’s ‘Big Game’ specials at Twickenham will cost £56. For Wimbledon, tickets for Centre Court range from £56 to £190. Even apparently less popular sports like squash can seem inaccessible, with prices for the Canary Wharf Classic at around £45. My Arsenal season ticket cost a whopping £1014! For students, live sport is therefore seemingly out of reach in terms of price, and that’s if you can even get a ticket, with many events selling out months in advance.
In the last print issue, Pi’s Sport Editor Nicola Chew, provided some useful alternatives for watching sport in London. The London Varsity is relatively cheap and has the added benefit of acting as an outlet for your inner competitiveness, while you cheer on the purple and blue of UCL as they (hopefully) destroy Kings. Volunteering at a major sporting event provides a much more immersive experience and, so long as you are prepared to work while you watch, it’s of course free. Furthermore, you could check out lower league action, as prices are usually much more reasonable than the top level. The ATP Challenger Tour in tennis, for example, has a tournament in Surbiton, with centre court prices as low as £7. However, there are other opportunities that you might be missing…
Firstly, if you’re not satisfied with working for free as a volunteer at a major sporting event, why not get paid for it. For the past couple of years, I’ve worked as a court attendant at Wimbledon. Although the hours are long and it can be physically demanding, this is a really rewarding experience. I worked at both the qualifying tournament the week before Wimbledon and the actual Championship. Working the Wimbledon fortnight is brilliant. Your role is to look after the delicate grass courts and make sure that they are covered and uncovered, meaning you are required to be courtside at all time. In other words, you don’t miss a minute of the action. The week long qualifying tournament is a more relaxed affair and takes place down at The Bank of England Sports Ground in Roehampton. However, the tennis is about as good as it gets. These players are ranked just below the top 30 in the world and are playing for a place in the first round of Wimbledon, which earns a £30,000 cheque. The stakes are high and the standard is fantastic. Your role here is as a court attendant, covering and uncovering the courts, but also as a ball boy or girl, and therefore you have the unique opportunity of being on court with these top-class athletes. You’re sometimes inches away from the action and really get a sense of the speed, power, and agility of the players. The only draw-back here…you might get hit! Do a quick google search and you’ll find that applications will be open after Christmas. Why not try it, not only do you get to watch top level sport for free, but you actually get paid for it.
There are many other opportunities to watch top level sport that are either cheap or free. If you don’t fancy working at Wimbledon qualifying, it’s open to the public for free and is a relatively unknown treasure. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see some of the top players practicing away from the spotlight of SW19.
If Rugby is your thing, free sport can again be found in South West London. Richmond Rugby are one league below the Premiership, and although they sit bottom of the Championship, entry to their ground will cost you nothing.
For football, you’ll be very lucky to get anything near the top level for free, but there are a few options. The Women’s Premiers League’s two London teams are Arsenal and Chelsea and ticket prices are low. Admission to Arsenal Ladies is only £3. There’s also the newly named Premier League 2. A reformulation of the Academy or Under 21 League, this new competition is now for players under 23 years of age. Arsenal and Tottenham both have teams in this league and both have free entry to their matches. If you make a trip down to Boreham Wood for Arsenal or Enfield for Tottenham, you might even get to see first team players who are returning from injury as the league allows three players over 23.
Ultimately, London boasts many amateur sports clubs also, and of course entry to most of these is free. It’s just a matter of getting down to your local park or common at the weekend to see what’s going on. Hopefully, I have given you a few options to explore if you sport, but you can’t afford London’s high prices. What are you waiting for?
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons