English football's gradual shift from 'game of the people' to a cut-throat global business has been the cause of much hand-wringing down the years, but even the most nostalgic Bovril-affectionado will admit it has made the sport more exciting at times.
Normally that means getting to watch the most exciting players in the world, content to slog it out on a cold night in Sunderland because there is enough cash in even the relegation battling clubs to make them instant millionaires.
But aside from the teams, the match day experience for fans has been improved as well – particularly at the luxury end.
It may not be what your Granddad remembers, it may wind up Roy Keane with its seafood sandwiches, but the corporate packages at top football stadiums are getting more and more impressive. Here, we round up 5 ways you can enjoy the beautiful game in luxury.
1 | Manchester City
As the country’s richest club, it’s no surprise Manchester City have upped their game and won awards (when it comes to looking after you, at least). In addition to their new Citizens bar (pictured above) and restaurant that has a panoramic view of the action (and serves food and drink you’d expect from the more decadent corners of London), they offer the ‘Harvey Nichols Experience Box’ where you can be lavished with food, fashion and even a massage before the big game. If that still isn’t luxurious enough for you, you can hire The Chairman's Club and be fed a five course meal from a personal waiter. One-off matchday tickets begin at £155 + VAT.
2 | Fulham
A luxury cruise on the Thames, followed by a superb three course lunch – what wife or girlfriend wouldn't love that? The fact that it is complemented by Fulham FC matchday tickets is surely just a minor detail. Priced at £275 per person (excluding VAT) treat your better half for a weekend in London which will appeal to both of you. Although, it may be advisable to forget to mention that the cruise will be hosted by a Fulham FC legend, and that the lunch will be at Craven Cottage. Still though, at least the statue of Michael Jackson has been removed.
3 | Chelsea
For the premier West-London experience head to Stamford Bridge and watch Mourinho’s men in style by opting for a Private Executive Suite. You will be greeted on arrival with champagne and canapés before sitting down for a four course meal. The thought of sitting in those uncompromising plastic chairs will be but a distant memory as you benefit from a luxury padded armchair on your own private balcony in the West Stand. A hostess will be on hand throughout the day so you can forget about having to queue for your halftime beer and pie, and instead take advantage of the complementary bar. Former Chelsea players will also pop by enabling you to speak to some of the legends of the game. Prices do start at £9000 (exc VAT) but there is seating for 24.
4 | Arsenal
If the standard executive boxes no longer do it for you and your ego is in need of a further boost, then fork out a paltry £36,000 (not including VAT of course) to watch Arsenal take on Man Utd in the comfort of the new superbox at the Emirates Stadium. You will be treated to a champagne reception, a three course buffet designed by celebrated chef Oleg Ibragimov, as well as an array of refreshments throughout and after the game. If Arsenal’s performance is attractive but somewhat lacklustre then make use of the in-box betting service to spice up the game. True Gunners legends, such as Tony Adams and Ray Parlour, will also be on hand to give you their insight into the game as you take your seat in the most luxurious of leather armchairs in your external balcony.
5 | Man Utd
With no match-by-match executive boxes available at Old Trafford, your only option is to make use of the television studio box. The demand is high, as it’s not just Sky Sports and BT that you’ll be competing with; the box is also regularly taken up by foreign broadcasting companies. Nevertheless if you can get your hands on it, you will enjoy a cracking view in the heart of the stadium, but expect to pay £9,600 (exc VAT) for a game against a top club. Otherwise you should opt for the Europa Suite where you will enjoy champagne and canapés on arrival, a four course meal and a complimentary bar before and after the game. You will also have the chance to take part in a former player Q&A, as well witness and applaud the man of the match presentation.