Football hardly needs an introduction to British people. Every week, millions of Brits head to local stadiums or pubs to cheer on their favourite teams, parks fill up with teams playing in Sunday leagues and kids try to hone their skills on school playground. Whether playing or spectating, it seems British people can’t get enough football of in their lives.
Whether you are one of the millions of attendees at Premier League or Football League matches, or one of the 8 million people who play the game regularly, this HotUKDeals buyer’s guide will introduce the main football related products, and help you save money on following or playing your favourite sport.
A Sports Treasure: Football
While professional football has only existed since the 1870s (and the first Football League Championship was contested in 1888), the game itself is much, much older. Both the Romans and the Greeks played games involving kicking a ball around, while FIFA officially recognises a Chinese variant called Cuju as the oldest known precursor to the modern game.
However, football as we know it evolved in the UK from the Middle Ages onwards. At Shrovetide or Easter, whole villages would compete against each other, trying to capture and kick a ball into to a particular location. “Playing at ball” was the most common recreational activity for young Londoners, even in the 12th century.
In older versions of the game, the ball was hardly ever round. That all changed in 1851, when a perfectly round inflated ball was invented. The same period also saw familiar rules like free kicks, corners, throw-ins and handball being introduced to make the game consistent across the whole country.
In 1863, the Football Association (FA) was founded, and it remains the sport’s UK governing body. The FA Cup followed in 1872, followed by the Football League. Soon, attendances of 50,000 were common, as working class Britons discovered a love for the sport, rapidly making it the national sport.
International football took a while to develop, and the first World Cup took place as late as 1930 (with England declining to participate at first). European competitions came even later, with the European Cup kicking off in 1955-56 and the European Championship first being held in 1960. Both are now key competitions for UK teams and also major media events.
The game has constantly changed since then, with some low points, like hooliganism, and a resurgence in the 1990s as the Premier League took off. Nowadays, football in the UK generates billions of pounds, commands the attention of millions and is one of the country’s most successful exports.
How and Where to Watch Football on TV
As the game of football has become more popular, the ways in which it has been televised have changed dramatically. Viewers used to be able to watch matches on BBC and ITV alone, but this all changed when Sky entered the fray in the late 1980s, taking the exclusive Premier League rights in 1993. Now, Sky themselves face stiff competition from insurgent broadcasters and streaming services. Here are the major ways UK football fans can watch their teams in action:
Sky Sports– Still the UK’s major football broadcaster, Sky took production quality to another level when they assumed the broadcasting rights in the 1990s, offering more matches, better footage and more insight than had previously been the case. These days, Sky shows 126 Premier League matches per season, along with 127 EFL and FA Cup ties, matches from La Liga, Scotland, the MLS and international qualifiers. You can either choose to purchase Sky Sports via a Sky Box, or use a NOW TV pass to watch the sports channels without any obligation to sign a contract (a good choice for people who just want to watch a few games at a time). Matches can also be streamed to tablets and mobiles, or hooked up to PlayStations, Xboxes or PCs.
BT Sport – Sky’s main competitor, BT Sport entered the scene in 2012 and currently has the right to show 42 Premier League matches every season, including 28 in the popular 5:30 p.m. spot on Saturday evenings. Just as importantly, BT Sport have snapped up exclusive rights to broadcast both the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League. Customers can access BT Sport via BT TV boxes, but it’s also possible to sign up via Sky Boxes (with discounts for switching between the two broadcasters). As with Sky, BT offers streaming to smartphones and tablets, along with the chance to watch matches at www.btsport.com. There is also a dedicated HD channel, BT Sport 4K UHD, which delivers the highest resolution football coverage around.
BBC and ITV– The older terrestrial broadcasters still broadcast live football matches in the FA Cup, along with major international tournaments like the World Cup and the European Championships. The BBC also remains a vital player on the football scene thanks to Match of the Day, which provides the most popular highlights package of Premier League matches on Saturday evenings. Both ITV and BBC broadcasts can be accessed via their respective websites, with the option to stream to digital devices if desired. If you are interested in saving money and plan to catch a few games per season, BBC and ITV provide regular matches via Freeview, at no extra cost to the viewer.
Club specific digital channels – In recent years, major football clubs have launched their own digital TV channels. Some of the leading broadcasters include MUTV (Manchester United), Arsenal TV and LFC TV (Liverpool). All of them provide behind the scenes access via interviews and news updates, as well as highlights of first team and reserve matches.
When it comes to actually choosing the right sports viewing package, it’s not just a question of choosing whether to sign up with Sky Sports or BT Sports (or sticking with Freeview). For example, Sky Sports can also be accessed via broadband packages with third party companies like Virgin, often at a discount (a great choice if you plan to change your broadband and landline setup at the same time).
Sky VR and SkySports - Closer with David Beckham
Playing Football on PCs and Gaming Systems
Being a football fan is about a lot more than just turning on your TV. With a wide range of console and PC games available, you can take charge of teams, leading them to years of glory, or play against your friends in mini-tournaments whenever you like. Here are some of the most popular football games around:
Football Manager 2017 – management simulations have long been a popular form of computer game and no franchise has been more popular than the Football Manager series. Initially known as Championship Manager and published by Eidos, Football Manager is now released every year by Sega and developed by Sports Interactive. No other game allows to manage teams to such a minute level of detail, with clubs and players from every corner of the world (and a remarkable level of accuracy about which players are likely to hit the big time in the near future). Football Manager 2017 is the latest iteration, and it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
Football Manager 2017 for smartphones – Sega has also commissioned a special version of Football Manager with slightly fewer features for smartphone users to enjoy. It still includes over 10,000 players and worldwide leagues, offering an immersive but accessible alternative to the PC-based title.
FIFA 2017 – The FIFA Soccer series has been around since the early 1990s and is the leading arcade version of football. As with Football Manager, every year sees a new version of FIFA, with graphical enhancements, better artificial intelligence and more managerial features. In fact, with career mode and the level of detail provided by FIFA, it has started to blur the line between arcade football games and managerial simulations. Published by Electronic Arts, FIFA 2017 is available for PCs, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One systems. It can also be purchased as part of bundles with consoles themselves, a good option if you don’t own a gaming system and your priority is being able to play football at home.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 – FIFA’s main competitor, PES 2017 is published by Konami and has been released for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Android smartphones (which isn’t the case for FIFA). Known for its superior computer AI, match analysis mode and data transfer between users’ consoles, PES offers a few things that FIFA doesn’t. However, the graphics don’t match FIFA, which could be a problem for some dedicated football gamers.
Other Android and iOS football games – Football gamers who want to take their passion on the road with them don’t have to stick to Football Manager or PES 2017. There are alternative managerial sims, like Top Eleven, and live action arcade games, like Real Football, both of which are exclusively smartphone titles. And there are also really simple but addictive free downloads like Free Kick Master and Football Kicks.
When you come to buy FIFA, PES or Football Manager, always remember to check for discounts. You’ll probably find that last year’s version drops in price dramatically as new release dates approach, so if you don’t mind a slightly out of date gaming experience, you can snap up some real bargains.
Football Products You Can Enjoy at Home
Computer games aren’t the only way to bring your love of football into the home. In fact, there are plenty of enjoyable games and toys with a football theme. Here are just a few of your options:
Table Football – Also known as foosball, table football was invented in the UK in the 1920s, but really took off in the United States in the 1960s, where it still has a devoted following. There’s a range of brands on the market but the best tables are manufactured by Bonzini, Garlando, Roberto Sport, Sondico, Riley, Leonhart and Tornado, so look out for their names as you check the HotUKDeals listings. You can also purchase tabletop games (essentially foosball tables without the legs), a cheaper option that works well in confined spaces.
Football board games – Football has always lent itself towards board games, with plenty of versions appearing over the years. These days, the world is experiencing something of a board game boom, and leading football titles include Tactico and Starplayer. Subbuteo is another famous board-game style football product and it continues to have a dedicated fan base.
Football stickers and cards – Almost every football fan will have memories of painstakingly collecting football stickers and affixing them lovingly in your own annuals. These days, football stickers and cards are just as popular as ever, with Panini still leading the way. Along with stickers, you’ll also find a wide range of football-themed card games like Top Trumps or Match Attax – both of which are great fun to play with children (or adult football fans who are young at heart).
How to Buy Football Equipment
So far, we’ve looked at how to watch football, play computer-based football games and find entertaining board or card games, but what about the really important part: how to actually play the game itself?
The great thing about football is that it’s a cheap, accessible game to play. Anyone and everyone can enjoy a game (regardless years of age), and there are thriving communities of disabled footballers as well. Whether you are an experienced player or a complete novice, here are the key pieces of kit and where to find them:
Football shirts – In modern life, football shirts have become a fashion item but they are essential pieces of kit if you want to enjoy the game as well. They aren’t the cheapest items of clothing, but you can find major discounts from retailers like Sports Direct and Millet Sports. There are also specialist vintage shirt merchandisers like Classic Football Shirts, which offer the most elegant designs from football’s past.
Shin pads – If you are intending to play competitively, shin pads are an absolute must. There are a number of varieties, including slip-ons and models that wrap around the ankle. Some provide better reinforcement for the shins, while others have better ankle support. However, always be sure to try shin pads on before buying, as a poorly fitting pair can severely limit your movement or even cause injuries. Good brands include Sondico, Adidas, and Nike.
Shorts – Rarely thought of as the most important part of the footballer’s outfit, having the right shorts can still make a difference. In winter, longer shorts make sense, helping to keep you warm, while lightweight shorts are ideal for summer matches. Aside from that, some fans prefer to wear their favourite team’s shorts but it makes more financial sense to bulk buy comfortable shorts from manufacturers like Umbro or Sondico.
Boots – As with football shirts, boots have become a major fashion statement. Sometimes, it can be hard to find ordinary black boots when you visit modern sports shops so if you are into luminous, eye-catching designs, you’re in luck. Always take time to get a proper fitting, with a stable ankle and room for your toes at the end of the boot. Think about stud size and material as well. Metal studs can be ideal for winter ground, but moulded studs will allow you to use your boots on grass and next generation artificial pitches. Many players also prefer to have a pair of football boots and astro-turf boots with densely packed, smaller studs. Always opt for a reputable brand as well. Puma, Nike and Adidas are reliable, but there are huge price differences between their cheapest (and often short-lasting) boots and the best designs. Check the HotUKDeals football boot listings and you might just find a high-quality pair at a bargain price.
Socks – An underrated piece of kit, football socks need to be warm and flexible, so you can slip them on and off easily. Remember not to go for socks that are too small, as you may need to put them on over bulky shin pads. Try to buy in bulk as well. Socks are easy to use and can lose their flexibility after a few washes, so having a few fresh pairs to hand makes sense.
Goalkeeper gloves – Not everyone is cut out to be a goalie, but if you are, you’ll want to get hold of the best gloves around. Every goalkeeper has their favourite colour schemes but all desire optimum grip. They should also be warm, but supple enough to provide a responsive feel and they also need to perform well in wet conditions. You can’t go far wrong with designs like the Nike Spyne Pro gloves or Reusch Soccer Pulse Prime gloves. Again, try them on, flex your fingers and catch a ball. You need to feel comfortable and confident and a good pair of gloves can help you achieve that.
Footballs – An easy item to forget, no matches can take place without at least one football. If you head down to your nearest sports shop, you’ll find buckets full of discounted balls but these should be avoided if you want to play seriously. Instead, go for high-quality balls that will retain their shape and surface. Look for models like the Mitre Ultimax or the Nike Strike Premier League.
Having the right kit is essential for all footballers, but gathering every last item can be costly (as most parents with footballing children will know). To save money, always check the HotUKDeals football listings for special offers from leading brands and try to avoid purchasing high-end boots, gloves or shirts, if cheaper options will do just as well.
The Perfect Gifts for Football Fans
Because football is so popular, footballing gifts could well be the ideal present for your loved ones, with plenty of suitable ideas for birthday bashes, weddings and general celebrations. Here are some of the gift ideas you’ll find on the HotUKDeals listings:
Football stadium tours – Almost every football club around the country offers in depth tours of their grounds, often with ex-pros in attendance to provide their stories and experiences. Packages come in various tiers, with extra hospitality elements available at a price, and you can book exclusive tours for special events as well.
Football gift cards – Many clubs also sell gift cards, whether they are for products from the club shop or for ticket purchases. For example, Chelsea, Fulham and Arsenal all sell cards to spend in their stores.
Specialist football gifts – We’ve talked about some of the football related toys and games on offer, but specific clubs also sell gifts themed around their brand. For example, at the Arsenal store, you can buy duvets, dressing gowns, quilted Wenger-style coats, figurines, headphones, watches and many more gift items.
DVDs and Broadcast subscriptions – Every club (even the smallest league teams) will usually bring out an annual DVD showing their goals and achievements, and there are also plenty of independent documentaries and highlight reels from the BBC and Sky. Items like NOW TV Sky Sports cards are also a great gift for digital TV viewers who aren’t willing to pay for a full subscription.
The Best Football Deals
If you want to take your passion for football further, there’s a massive product range waiting to be explored. From stadium tours to Sky Sports subscriptions, football has spawned an endless variety of products and all of them can be found at discount prices if you know where to look.
The first place to head when you need to make a football-related purchase is the HotUKDeals football listings. You’ll find all of the kit you need, computer games, TV deals and much more. It’s all searchable and completely up to date, enabling you to find the best footy deals.
Merchants featuring on our football listings include kit manufacturers like Nike, Adidas, Mitre and Sondico, broadcasters like BT Sport and Sky, game manufacturers like EA and Sega, as well as retailers like Sports Direct, Tesco, Argos and the various club shops of Premier League teams.
If you are buying FIFA or PES, think about when to buy. Do you want the latest version or are you willing to pay less for last year’s version? If so, prices will fall as the new release approaches. Sky and BT prices also drop at certain times of the year, particularly as the new season gets into gear and just before major football tournaments like the World Cup. So shop strategically, whatever you are buying.
There’s no need to settle for the cheapest football boots or to stick to Freeview football matches, when there are so many deals waiting to be explored.
Enjoy Football and Save Money with HotUKDeals
Football is a massive business and a national obsession in the UK. Whether you are an avid watcher of the Premier League, a keen footballer or you need to buy a gift, you’ll find great football discounts at the HotUKDeals listings.