I’ve spent £10k travelling to 118 football grounds around the world… but tickets aren’t my only eye-watering expense
A FOOTBALL-CRAZY fan has travelled 51,000 miles and spent £13,000 visiting 118 grounds across the world – costing a lot not just for tickets and travel, but also plenty of pints.Oliver Banks has watched games in stadiums spanning ten countries, splashing out £7,000 on entry, £2,000 on getting there – and £4,000 on beer.
Football fan Oliver Banks at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, where he saw his team Manchester United beat Bayern Munich to win the Champions League in 1999Credit: Jam Press
Yet the Manchester United supporter says their Old Trafford home remains his favourite.
He spent his childhood going to United home games with his dad Jon.
Oliver’s earliest memory was celebrating the Red Devils’ win over Bayern Munich to secure the Treble back in 1999, when he was just eight.
He started to visit local grounds when on holiday in a foreign country.
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Yet it was the Covid-19 lockdown that prompted him to explore further, on realising how much he missed live matches at a time when fans were barred from attending.
Since restrictions were lifted, he resolved to visit as many as possible – getting to 118 so far and aiming to take in many more.
He said “My flights alone have been 31,000 miles since I started ground-hopping.
“I’d probably estimate another 15,000 – 20,000 miles in trains and driving for games in the UK.
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“The countries I’ve watched football in include Cyprus, Belgium, Wales, Poland, France, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Spain and England.
“Stadiums out of the UK include GSP Stadium, Cyprus, and the Stade Roi Baudoin, Belgium.
“In Poland, I’ve visited Polsat Plus Arena and Stadion Bemowskiego Osrodka Pilki Noznej.
“In France I’ve visited Parc Des Princes, and I’ve been to BayArena in Germany.
“In Italy – San Siro, Arena Civica, Gewiss Stadium, Stadio Artemi Franchi, Stadio Ennio Tardini, Stadio Giovanni Zini, Stadio Olimpico, Stadio Pierluigi Penzo.
“Likewise, I’ve been to many grounds in Spain including Civitas Metropolitano, Estadio La Rosaleda, Estadio Benito Villamarin, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Estadio de la Ceramica, Reale Arena, Camp Nou.”
“I fly to overseas games, then train or drive to UK games.
“I’ve probably spent £1,000 to £2,000 travelling outside of England to different games. I tend to make sure I get reasonably-priced flights.
“For example, my dad and I did a trip to Warsaw for a game last year and flights were £9.99 return.
“Flights for my Denmark and Sweden trip are only £40 return, so if you pick the right dates it’s not too bad.
“England is normally much more expensive to get around – trains to domestic away games are far too expensive.”
He also made sure to see most of the England “Lionesses” games on their way to winning the European Championship last summer, including beating Germany 1-0 in the final.
He said: “My favourite game and memory of last season was the final at Wembley, just a brilliant day from start to finish.”
Supping up adds to the costs, however.
He said: “Beers at games is also an expensive factor in ground-hopping. I’ll have more at United as I’m not driving.
“Manchester United charge £3 a pint and most non-league clubs are £3.50 to £5 a pint.
“I’ve probably spent around £4,000 just on beer.”
As to the best ground to be at, Oliver added: “It’s hard to pick a favourite ground as it definitely depends on the day around it, the game, the food, the atmosphere.
“Of course Old Trafford is my favourite ground because it’s my home.”
His next best is Sevilla’s Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan – despite United’s 3-0 defeat there last month in a Europa League quarter-final second leg, losing 5-2 on aggregate despite leading 2-0 in their earlier encounter at OId Trafford.
He said: “A terrible result for United, but I’ve never known an atmosphere created by a set of home fans like the one Sevilla made.
“Next is Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland. I had wanted to visit it since I was a child and it was everything I wanted it to be.
“Followed by Racecourse Ground in Wrexham. I was fortunate to pick up a last-minute ticket for Wrexham v Grimsby in the play-offs last year and what a fantastic day.
“Last but by no means least has to be San Siro in Milan, Italy. It was absolutely iconic and totally lives up to its reputation.”
However, Oliver has had his fair share of grounds that didn’t quite live up to his expectations.
He added “My bottom four grounds include St Mary’s in Southampton, England. It’s just really dull and feels like it lacks character.
“Next up would be Leigh Sports Village in Leigh, England. Nothing hugely against the stadium but it’s a farce that Manchester United Women play there, and transport options for it are shocking.
“Technique Stadium in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Again, similarly to St Mary’s, it’s fine but there’s no real interesting qualities to it.”
Oliver has revealed how the influence of lockdown and restrictions started his ground-hopping journey.
He said “I’ve always had an interest in away days, seeing new grounds and so on. If I was going on holiday, I’d try and visit the local ground etc.
“I think lockdown and the total loss of games to go to really made me appreciate just how much I love attending football games but also having varied football experiences, and that made me start to look at recording the data behind games I was going to.
“I definitely feel like there’s something spiritual about a football ground – there are very few places where people congregate in such large numbers for one event and with one common goal.
“Absolutely every ground is different, and ground-hopping takes you to parts of the country and the world that I don’t think I’d otherwise ever see.
“I don’t have a number in mind really. I’d like to do the 92, but given the two Uniteds dominate my weekends I can’t complete it with any kind of speed.
“There are ground-hoppers who’ve visited up to 750 grounds and I’d like to get to those kind of numbers in years to come.
“I will quite happily watch any standard of football anywhere really, so I expect that my match numbers will keep on rising faster than my ground number does.”
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The fixtures he has ahead include Manchester United facing Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley on June 3 and Copenhagen against Randers in Denmark the following day.
He then intends to head to Sweden to see Malmo take on Degerfors on June 5, before returning home and seeing Gareth Southgate’s England play North Macedonia at Old Trafford on June 19 in a 2024 European Championship qualifier.
Oliver Banks first attended matches with his father JonCredit: Jam Press
Oliver believes he has spent £7,000 on tickets to games – and another £4,000 on beerCredit: Jam Press
The Polsat Plus Arena in the Polish city of Gdansk is among Oliver’s visitsCredit: Jam Press
A highlight was Wembley as England’s Lionesses beat Germany in the Euro 2022 finalCredit: Jam Press More