Food & Drink at Football Grounds

Beer
By BaukeBeertema (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the past a decent bit of grub at a football stadium was the sole reserve of those fortunate few who could afford to head to the hospitality areas. Nowadays that’s largely changed, with acceptable food options available on the concourses of most top-flight grounds around the country. The same is true of drink, too. You might not be able to take your pint pitch side because of a ludicrously antiquated rule, but you can get an alcoholic beverage before the match and at half-time.

How has that changed over the years? What’s different now to ten, fifteen or even twenty years ago? Which clubs led the way in changing how food was thought of, particularly in the Premier League? We’ve had a little look at it all, because we knew you’d be desperate to know the answers. Unsurprisingly clubs try to pretend that their less salubrious past never existed, erasing it from memory like Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984. We’ve done our best to dig up the dirt though, figuratively speaking at least.

Price of Food and Drink in UK Football Stadiums

Premier League

Stadium Tea Beer Pie
Anfield £2.50 £4.00 £3.40
Bet365 Stadium £2.20 - £2.90
Falmer Stadium £2.10 - £4.10
Goodison Park £2.30 £4.00 £3.20
John Smiths Stadium £2.00 £3.50 £3.20
King Power Stadium £2.20 - £3.50
Liberty Stadium £2.00 £4.00 £3.50
London Stadium £2.30 £5.00 £3.50
Selhurst Park £2.20 £4.20 £4.00
St James' Park £2.30 - £3.20
St Mary’s £2.00 - £3.50
Stamford Bridge £1.00 £4.40 £2.50
The Emirates £2.30 £4.30 £3.70
The Etihad £1.80 £3.40 £4.00
The Hawthorns £2.20 £3.60 £3.20
Turf Moor £2.00 - £3.00
Vicarage Road £1.70 - £3.40
Vitality Stadium £2.00 - £3.50
Wembley £2.50 £5.00 £4.50

How Has Food in Football Stadiums Changed?

Stevenage
Paul Wilkinson / Flickr.com

This section could just as easily have been entitled ‘Has Food Changed Over The Years?’, because in many ways it hasn’t. In the past the food that you would be able to get from a football stadium would be largely unhealthy and in that respect life is much the same nowadays.

The traditional food that accompanies football matches in England remains a meat pie. This is the staple diet of the average football fan at the ground itself, though many choose to eat before or after the game if the opportunity presents itself.

For their part, clubs have attempted to upgrade these options in recent times. Head to a top-flight football stadium nowadays and you’re likely to be able to pick up the likes of a hot-dog, nachos or even a pizza in some locations. Burgers, chips and pies will not be leaving the menu any time soon, though.

Pukka Pies
 

Of course a lot of this depends upon where you’re going to watch the game. Different parts of the country have food options that reflect the local area. In the South-West, for example, you’re more likely to be able to pick up a pastie than a pie. It goes without saying that if you head to a part of the country that is famed for offering a certain foodstuff then you’ll be able to get that food in the ground. Scouse is a much-loved dish in Liverpool, for example, so you’re likely to be able to get some in both Anfield and Goodison Park.

Another thing that has been available at concession stands within football stadiums for years is Bovril. Made in Burton-upon-Trent, this drink is essentially a meat-based gravy. A pie and a Bovril may not appeal to everyone, but most grounds will offer it and sell a decent amount every match day. The drink’s survival is not to be underplayed. In the 1950s and 1960s it themed most of its advertising around attracting football fans. Indeed, there was a Bovril advert on the back of the programme for the first ever floodlit match hosted at Wembley Stadium that stated, “Floodlit? Not me! I’m glowing with hot Bovril!”

Type of Food At Football Grounds

Spotland Stadium
Matthew Wilkinson / Flickr.com

When Liverpool’s famous Kop grandstand re-opened after being turned into an all-seater venue in the mid-1990s it was adorned by a giant ‘M’ on its side. McDonald’s had opened the world’s first fast food restaurant within a football stadium and it remained there until 2003. Whether or not you think the standard of food available to the match-going fan improved during that time will largely depend on what you think of that particular company, but it signalled a shift in the way that football clubs began to think about the food that they served up to supporters.

Over the years different football clubs have made an effort to try to change the general diet of their fans. Pies, sausage rolls and hot-dogs aren’t exactly the healthiest of choices when it comes to dietary requirements after all. It hasn’t always worked out, but it’s worth giving a mention to the clubs that have attempted to do something a little bit different.

A 2009 study into food at football grounds established that there was demand out there for clubs to offer healthier selections and more options for consumption. Perhaps that was what encouraged the board of Forest Green to offer their supporters meat-free and environmentally sustainable food from the end of 2011 onwards.

Burger Bar Stoke
Burger Bar Stoke - Terry Robinson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

To an extent Forest Green’s decision was wrapped up in the club’s overall aim of making themselves one of the most sustainable football clubs in the word, but a side effect of that was to offer supporters the opportunity to develop their tastes. Their journey to improving the fare available to supporters on the concession stands began twelve months before when they revolutionised the food that their players ate.

Their decision was largely based on science. The club argued that it takes ten times more energy to sustain a meat-eater than a vegetarian, so they were doping both themselves and their fans a favour. Still, would you have been happy to eat a rainbow kobez wrap, with pumpkin hummus, grated beets and grated carrot rather than burger? Admittedly the polenta chips with chilli and thyme don’t sound too bad, but can a steak and ale pie ever really be replaced by a steak mushroom, swede, leek & real ale in short crust pie alternative?

Supporters who can afford to spend time in the hospitality areas of football grounds have long been able to get a more diverse set of food offerings, of course. Sit down meals are always easier to cater for in a healthy way than ones where a quick turnaround is necessary in order to serve as many people as possible. The building of new stadia over the coming years, such as Tottenham’s new ground, which will feature a ‘cheese room’, and the development of Stamford Bridge, will see the clubs specifically think about the different food types they’ll be able to offer. For everyone else, a pint, a pie and a cup of Bovril will have to do.

Football Stadium Food & Drink Around The World

Deepfried Grasshoppers
Deepfried Grasshoppers Eaten at Stadiums in Uganda - By Lars (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What would a Spanish supporter make of a cup of meat-based gravy at half-time? How do Germans get their nourishment when the whistle goes to end the first-half? Here we’ll have a quick look at the sort of food you’d be able to get if you went to watch a football on foreign soil.

  • Croatian Flag 128 Croatia - A trip to a football ground in Zagreb will witness men walking around shouting, “Koštice, Kikiriki”. Translated roughly that means “Seeds, Peanuts” and is the typical fare on offer at a Croatian football ground.
  • Denmark128Denmark - English supporters would no doubt be delighted with the standard food offering at a Danish football ground. What is known as the ‘stadion platte’, or ‘stadium dish’ is a bread roll filled with two sausages and adorned with ketchup & mustard. The whole thing is washed down with a pint of beer, too.
  • Estonia 128Estonia - Not known for being one of the warmest places in the world, Estonian football fans forgo sausages and seeds in favour of hot soup with garlic bread and sometimes some beef jerky.
  • Faroe Islands - Football clubs in the Faroe Islands realise that selling food and drink can be a money making opportunity, but most of them don’t want to make money for themselves. Instead they send a youth player around flogging coffee and sweets to supporters, with the money then put towards youth football development.
  • France Flag 128France - France is a big country, so you’ll get different things depending on where you go. One thing you’ll almost certainly be able to treat yourself to, though, is a galette-saucisse. This is essentially a thin pancake wrapped around a fried pork sausage. If you fancy a drink with it then you’ll want to give the beer a miss and favour a local cider instead.
  • Germany Flag 128Germany - Let’s be honest, you’re not surprised that beer and sausage makes up the menu in Germany are you? Strong lager and bratwurst are the order of the (match) day, with currywurst also a firm favourite of Bundesliga fans.
  • Greece Flag 128Greece - Greek vendors don’t mess about with fancy names for the food they offer on match days. A speciality is ‘vromiko’ and if you think that looks suspiciously like ‘vomit’ you’re not far off. The literal translation is ‘filthy’ and it made up of bread, bratwurst or kebab meat and french fries with loads of mustard and mayo.
  • Italy Flag 128Italy - Trust the Italians to be a bit more classy than most with their food selection. Salamella is a grilled sausage sandwich, flavoured with onions and paprika. You won’t find a Bovril anywhere.
  • Portugal Flag 128Portugal - A little like in Italy, the Portuguese enjoy something a little more than just a standard sausage. Perhaps a ‘bifana’ will take your interest, with the well-seasoned grilled pork-steak sandwich being a popular choice. If not then ‘entremeadas’ may be for you. That is a sandwich filled with pork/bacon pieces.
  • San Marino - The small state of San Marino may not be known for its footballing prowess, but fans still like to watch games live and have a bite to eat whilst they’re doing so. Piadina is the local speciality, consisting of a flatbread filled with cheese, ham and various vegetables.
  • Spain Flag 128Spain - Head to a La Liga match and you may well find someone sat next to you eating a bocadillo. This is essentially a filled baguette and sits on the more filling side of the aisle when it comes to food. Less filling but just as common are supporters who eat seeds and nuts, often discarding piles of shells around them as they watch the match.
  • Sweden Flag 128Sweden - It’s not unheard of for Swedish fans to enjoy a hot-dog, but the more experienced ones will be seen filling up on an almond-paste filled cake known as a mazarin, washed down with some strong coffee.
  • Turkey Flag 128Turkey - If you’ve ever been to the café of an IKEA you might be forgiven for thinking that Swedish football fans might fancy a meatball or two. In actual fact that is something eaten more commonly in Turkey. A meatball sandwich, known as a ‘köfte ekmek’, is often accompanied by a less than tasty sounding salty yoghurt drink called an ‘ayran’.

The Future of Football Ground Refreshments

Beer Backpack
By Rocketpacks (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For the majority of football fans the most interesting thing about the future of the game involves nothing other than the new players their team will sign. There’s little doubt, though, that the football clubs themselves will look to develop their refreshment offerings.

A trip to a top-flight club in England now will already seem different to most than it would have ten years ago. There are people walking around with vats of lager in backpacks, able to pour a pint in a matter of seconds to save you queuing up. Bottoms Up beer dispensers have also been installed in some grounds, allowing up to 44 pints to be poured within a minute.

As the likes of Forest Green have shown, however, it is the food that is served that will undergo the biggest change. Five years after removing meat from the menu the club is still going strong with its vegetarian options. Given that more and more clubs are going to try to show themselves as more tolerant of other’s needs - such as Muslim supporters needing Halal food - Bovril and pies might be harder and harder to come by.