The football season is about to begin, so here’s how to watch it without forking out the equivalent of a Premiership player’s
daily hourly wage.
Each year there’s more and more football on TV, though the new season will see a return to just selected matches broadcast now that fans are allowed back into stadiums.
Championship, League One and League Two fans will get most of their action on Sky Sports too, but can also watch via their club’s websites.
If you want to watch as many games as possible, it doesn’t come cheap. And if you don’t support one of the big teams, they’ll be featured less often making it more expensive per match. So here’s how to pay less to suit how many games you want to watch.
(All this football talk reminds me of this classic Mitchell and Webb sketch…)
Premier League on TV
This season it’ll revert to the established rights deals, with only selected games broadcast on TV.
Sky Sports/Now TV
132 games will be shown on Sky Sports.
Over the whole season you’ll be able to see 52 games on BT Sport.
There are 20 games showing on Prime this season, ten on 30 November and 1 December 2021, and another ten on and around 28 December.
You’ll be able to watch highlights on Match of the Day.
Champions League and Europa League
All games and highlights are on BT Sport, though the finals are usually free on the BT Sport YouTube channel.
Football League (Championship, League One, League Two, League cup)
Sky will be the main place to watch EFL games this season, though fans of most clubs can catch midweek matches via iFollow for £10 – as long as it’s not been selected for Sky.
- 183 EFL games (minimum of 20 from Leagues One and Two)
- 80 midweek Championship games can be shown on the red-button
- All play-off semi-finals and finals
- 15 EFL cup games
- Semi-finals and finals of EFL Trophy
In 2021 the FA Cup will be completely free to watch, with ITV taking over from BT Sport as the co-broadcaster alongside the BBC. This will continue until at least the 2024/25 season.
- 18 fixtures including the final
- At least 20 games including the final
International friendlies and qualifiers
- All England games
- All games excluding England
- Highlights on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
- Wales matches (in Welsh)
This Wikipedia page will show you who has the broadcast rights for other matches, including the Scottish Premier League, Women’s Super League and La Liga.
Cheapest ways to watch football on Sky Sports
Sky Sports is available on Sky, BT TV, Virgin, NOW TV and Talk Talk.
Get day or week Sky Sports passes with NOW TV
If you only plan to watch a few games at home throughout the season you can buy a NOW TV day pass for £9.99. You get all the Sky Sports channels for 24 hours.
A monthly pass is also available, but at £33.99 it’s not cheap if you pay it every month, while the monthly mobile pass at £5.99 is cheaper but you can only watch via the app on your phone or tablet. The weekly pass has been axed,
Normally I’d say you don’t have to pay the full prices as there are usually offers to pay less. Since lockdown these offers have been rarer, but they still exist. You can get more details on these in my regularly updated list of the best NOW TV Sky Sports pass offers.
I love that there’s no minimum subscription with NOW TV meaning you can cancel whenever you want. You watch via the internet on the NOW TV app (on your TV, console or streaming stick) or on your computer or mobile device.
It’s also only 720 HD rather than the full 1080. There is a top-up available but at an extra cost of £5 a month.
Combine a NOW TV pass with a cut-price broadband and phone line deal and it’ll often be much much cheaper than getting everything as part of the full Sky or Virgin packages.
Pick and mix your channels with Sky
If you don’t fancy NOW TV, then you’re looking at adding the channels to another pay TV service – at a cost. But Sky does offer a way to save if you don’t want all the different sports channels.
In July 2017 Sky axed the familiar numbered channels and replaced them with ones focused on individual sports. You can pick from:
- Sky Sports Premier League
- Sky Sports Football
- Sky Sports Cricket
- Sky Sports Golf
- Sky Sports F1
- Sky Sports Action & Sky Sports Arena
You can get the two football channels for £18 extra a month on a rolling 31-day contract. If you want more channels you should be able to get three for £26 or all of them for £30 (this also comes with the Main Event channel).
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The cheapest way to watch football on BT Sport
BT Sport is available on BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin. I’ve a deals page here, but here are the cheapest options.
Get BT Broadband or BT TV
Anyone who has BT Broadband can sign up to BT Sport App for £10 a month, or add it to an existing BT TV bundle for the same price. It’s worth considering going with BT over a cheaper broadband provider if you really want to get access to BT Sport all year (in fact you’ll probably be locked in for two years).
Buy a month pass
If you don’t want to do that you can pay £25 to access the BT Sport channels via the app for a month. There’s no commitment beyond that time so it’s good for casual fans.
Add BT Sport to your Sky, Virgin or TalkTalk TV packages
With each of the following, you need to factor in the other charges you’re paying such as landline, broadband and other TV channels. You’ll also probably have a new contract that lasts 18 to 24 months.
But at the start of the season there are often offers to add the channels.
The cheapest way to watch football on Amazon Prime Video
There will be two groups of fixtures shown on Amazon Prime this season. Over two weekends in December, a total of 20 games will be shown.
Get a free Amazon Prime trial
If you’ve never had Prime, you can take out a 30-day trial for free. This’ll allow you to watch all those games, and if you time it right, get free delivery on your Christmas shopping!
Pay £5.99 a month
You can also sign up on a monthly basis, at just £5.99 a month. So if you only want to watch those game, you can do it for £6 – as long as you cancel. You can also get an annual membership to Amazon Prime with extra Amazon benefits for £79.
Switch to a new deal
With Sky Sports and BT Sports, rather than just add the channels to your existing service as a top-up, it’s often cheaper to switch your service to a new company.
There are always offers for current customers signing new contracts, but the best deals are usually for new customers or those who threaten to leave. You can generally save even more by going via cashback sites.
Haggle with your provider
You can add on the Sky Sports and BT Sport channels to your existing Sky, Virgin, Talk Talk and BT TV packages, but this can get very expensive.
Look out for special offers at the start of the season, or get on the phone with your provider and haggle for a better deal.
Cancel it when you don’t need it
These big pay TV companies often let you take Sky Sports month by month, so if there aren’t any matches you want to see, or you know you won’t have time, just call up and cancel.
You can sign up again when you want to restart watching the channels. Check the terms and conditions before subscribing and see if there is a notice or minimum period.
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The cheapest way to watch every live game
Share it with a friend
Know someone who has BT Sport, NOW TV or Sky? You can usually watch the channels on up to two devices (smart TV, computer, tablet, phone) simultaneously, so you could split the cost between you.
Watch it in the pub
Of course, you can save all that hassle and head to the pub – though with social distancing this could be a bit trickier, especially at the start of the season.
Premiership fans will normally be able to find somewhere showing the games, though Championship and lower may struggle. A few pints would cost the same as a NOW TV day pass.
Download the MatchPint app too, as not only will it help you find what game is on where you might get a free drink!
The average cost to watch each team
This article from a few years ago looked at the number of games each Premier League team had a match on Sky TV – and showed the cost of each match, and the season.
Suffice to say, if you pay for all the services all year you’re going to get better value if you support one of the big teams and very poor value if you support a smaller one.