Understanding English football culture

University of Leeds
5 min readAug 9, 2022


Aishwarya Sunderrajan, MSc Data Science and Analytics

The very quotable Bill Shankly said, ‘Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that” and I can verify that statement after witnessing it myself.

Football in England thrived in early times and was shaped by the Industrial Revolution. What was initially used as a means to bring together working men connected with steel, railways, textiles, and manufacturing is now a worldwide phenomenon. Sheffield F.C. was the first football club to be established, followed by early giants from Blackburn, Manchester, Nottingham, Stokes and so on. The English Premier League is now the wealthiest and most in-demand global brand comprising 20 top football clubs. Check out the complete list of the clubs and their stadiums here.

Stadium Tours

All the premier league clubs offer stadium tours, and the experience is surreal. I recommend going to Old Trafford, Anfield, Emirates and Stamford Bridge, it’s definitely worth it. Do avoid running onto the pitch though, they frown upon that kind of stuff.

Choosing a team

Fragment of the Leeds United Stadium
Leeds United Stadium

Now, choosing a team is usually a family affair or a matter of where you live. Once you’ve chosen a team you support them through thick and thin (am I right, fellow Arsenal fans?). At any Premier League match, the chanting, banter and singing between rival fans is what makes the matches so distinctive. The game evokes a sense of passion and comradery that might baffle you if you don’t particularly care for football. But not to worry, anyone can enjoy the sport in the UK. It is also one of the best ways to get to know people at the obligatory after-game drink at the pub!

Leeds United F.C. is the English professional football club in the city of Leeds and if you don’t already support a club you’re obliged to support them (it’s only fair since you live in Leeds now). A few popular players who played for Leeds United are Garry Kelly (defender), Allan Clarke (striker), Billy Bremner (midfielder), Rio Ferdinand (centre back) and others. Stepping into this fanatical football culture can seem really daunting, here are some things to expect when you get tickets to a match and how to maximize your experience. Rival fans are strictly segregated and you will most definitely be kicked out for wearing the opposing team’s colours. It is extremely important that you only cheer for the team whose fans you are sitting with unless you want to get pelted with beer and food. There is going to be chanting throughout the game and it is going to give you goosebumps, the stadium filled with the echoes of chants and fans waving banners is truly a sight to behold.

Where to watch the big game

If you aren’t able to get a ticket, there are a slew of pubs and bars in Leeds to watch the big game.

The Box

This place has got all the channels you need from Sky to terrestrial and goes above and beyond for the Premier League, FA Cup, European and international matches. Expect special food and offers on drinks to keep you going for the entirety of the game.

The Library

Extremely popular with students, they show the match on multiple screens downstairs and a huge projector upstairs. It boasts cosy seating areas and traditional awnings to enjoy all the latest games. They also have a fantastic selection of drinks and quick bites. It’s located near Hyde Park, a student-populated area in Leeds.


This Aussie-inspired bar in Woodhouse Lane is one of the best places to watch football with numerous big screens spread across the first and second floors. You also have the option to book a booth and get your own built-in telly. They serve Aussie dishes and classic pub food along with shots, lagers and cocktails.

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen exterior
Exterior of Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen

Also popular amongst the student crowd, they play all the big games and are one of the friendliest venues in town. The three floors along with the stunning rooftop terrace get packed whenever there’s a major match screening. Dough Boy’s Pizza and Patty Smith’s Burgers mouthwatering food also contribute to the large numbers.

Old Bar

Old Bar interior.
Old Bar. Credit: Richard Cruise.

Situated on the ground floor of the Leeds University Union, this place will satisfy all your sports viewing needs, especially football. Rest assured they will be playing all the best matches on the big screen. It’s got the perfect atmosphere to have a few pints with a group of friends and enjoy the match, no matter who you support.

2022 World Cup

Along with the ongoing Premier League matches get ready to gear up for the 2022 World Cup, taking place in Qatar, from 21st November to 18th December. The overlapping dates will no doubt affect every Premier League team. With Gareth Southgate as bossman again, the three lions are aiming to top their group in the qualification campaign. Having guided the English squad to 4th place in the 2018 World Cup and runners-up in the 2020 Euros, Southgate et al are definitely eyeing the win. Young players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka are ones to watch out for in the future, along with the versatile Joe Gomez. At midfield, we have Phil Foden, Dele Alli and Declan rice have been looking fine in Premier League games. Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling would most likely be the front three so get ready for some screamers.

The fans in stadiums are what make watching football in the UK an electrifying experience. All in all, If you ever do manage to get tickets for a match while you’re here, grab it even if you don’t like football, because it’s a truly magical experience.