Cut the cost of enjoying sport

Whatever your favourite activity, getting together to play (or watch) sport is a hugely popular pastime in the UK.

Sport England’s annual Active People Survey found that around 36% of the adult population have taken part in organised sport in the past 12 months, with swimming, football, cycling, golf and athletics among the most popular.

Of course, many more of us enjoy sport from the sidelines. This year a record 511,043 people attended Wimbledon over the 13-day tournament, while a staggering 11.2 million viewers tuned in to watch Roger Federer score victory over Andy Roddick in the men’s final.

Unfortunately, the cost of following your favourite sport can make a considerable dent in your budget. A ticket for Wimbledon to watch that tense final on Centre Court, for example, would have set you back £91 – and that’s even before booking fees are applied and you’ve splashed out on Pimms and strawberries.

Yet tennis followers have it cheap compared with die-hard football fans. Adult season tickets for Premier League clubs range from £305 to £531 at Aston Villa to an eye-watering £635 to £835 at Chelsea, with individual match tickets costing anywhere between £25 and £59.

And football isn’t the only expensive sport. Tickets for the Six Nations Rugby are upward of £150; while a one-day pass for Formula One in Cologne in July would have set you back at least £195, before adding travel, accommodation and extras such as food and drink.

Playing sports can also set you back financially, particularly those that require club membership such as golf, or rely on certain weather conditions, such as skiing and snowboarding.

“The good news, however, is that with a little planning and careful budgeting, pursuing these hobbies can be easier than you think,” says Gary Lumby, head of retail at Yorkshire Bank.

Televised sport

While watching sport on TV will never beat the atmosphere of a live event, it allows you to follow your favourite sports for a fraction of the cost. Until June, Irish network Setanta competed with Sky Sports to provide coverage of events such as boxing and Premier League football.

However, Setanta buckled to financial pressure in June, and went into administration.
“The demise of Setanta is disappointing, but once the dust settles, there’s no doubt that the remaining providers will compete for the viewers who have been left hanging,” reassures Michael Phillips, product director of, an independent comparison website.

With such a wide range of digital TV services and packages on offer, ranging from £15 to £50 a month, choosing the right one for the sports you enjoy can seem daunting. To ensure you don’t end up paying to view channels you don’t need, Phillips recommends researching which sports, events and specific fixtures are featured on which channels before you sign up.

Once you’ve decided which channels you need, compare deals on comparison sites such as and, and be sure to factor in installation costs, in addition to the monthly fee.

You may be able to cut the cost further by taking out a bundled package. “If you’re thinking about signing up to a TV package from Virgin Media or Sky, consider taking your broadband and home phone services from them as well,” advises Phillips. “Both providers offer significant discounts for customers bundling these three services together.”

Finally, don’t be afraid to haggle with your existing provider as it may offer you a better deal in order to keep your custom. “Special offers and competitive rates are usually only for new customers, but existing customers can call up and ask for the same benefits – it’s possible your provider will bend on the issue in a bid to keep you from switching,” adds Phillips.

Certain events are not included in subscriptions and require an additional pay-per-view fee that can be as much as £14.95 for each game. Inviting a few friends over to share the fee, with each of you chipping in to buy drinks and snacks, for example, will help you reduce the cost.

Watching matches at the pub means you can avoid pay-per-view fees completely, but be careful not to cancel out any savings you make by getting carried away with expensive drinks and food. With the average pint of beer now costing £2.68, according to, a few pints over the course of the game will quickly add up.

Match day

Attending a sporting event can be a great day out – and often the best way to follow and support your team. But while season tickets and single-match tickets are the biggest individual expense, it’s the match-day extras that can really bump up the cost.

If you’re driving to a sporting event with friends, ask them to share the cost of petrol. If you’re travelling by train, book your ticket as far ahead as possible to snap up advance savings, and check if you qualify for a railcard – it could cut the cost of travel in the UK by up to a third.

Parking at, or near, stadiums during big events can be a stressful and expensive experience, costing up to £20 a day at London venues such as Lords Cricket Ground or the Emirates Stadium. Consider parking further away from the venue and take a bus or the underground, or book a space in advance online at

Food and drinks are often overpriced at sporting events so taking your own, particularly if you have children, can shave a huge amount off the cost. The cheapest refreshment options at sports stadiums tend to be fast-food stands, but with a hotdog, burger or pie costing between £2 and £4, along with tea, soft drinks or beer, a family of four can quickly rack up a bill of £20.

Taking a flask, some bottled water and a packed lunch will not only save you money, it’s also a much healthier option than the greasy burger van.

Playing sport

Getting involved in sport is both great fun and a fantastic way to keep fit, yet many of us are faced with rising costs if we want to pursue the sports we enjoy most.

The average annual membership to a brand-name gym has risen to £767, according to insurer Sheila’s Wheels. A survey from the specialist provider found that with almost half of female gym members admitting to going just once a week or less, women are forking out an estimated £15.32 each time they work out.

Ask yourself whether you make the most of your membership or if you should ditch it. If you still want access to a gym but want to cut the cost, you can visit a local community leisure centre or YMCA for as little as £2.50. Visit your council’s website and to find out what’s on offer.

Also consider free activities such as running, cycling or hiking, and find out if there’s an outdoor gym nearby. The Great Outdoor Gym Company started building free outdoor gyms in Britian’s parks and public spaces last year. They comply with European safety standards, and there are currently around 50 across the UK.

Golf is a popular sport, yet one of the most expensive to play, costing an average £755 a year, according to a study by Yorkshire Bank. If you’re a golfer, consider how often you play and weigh up the cost of annual membership fees against paying each time you go, and check whether you can play during off-peak times to cut costs.

For golf and other activities such as snow sports, climbing or scuba diving, the cost of equipment is often the biggest expense. Work out the cost of hiring equipment as opposed to buying it outright. If you’re trying out a sport for the first time, hiring equipment is probably the best option in case it turns out not to be your thing.

Check eBay or the classified section in your local paper for second-hand equipment, and make some extra cash by selling on any old sports equipment that is sitting unused in your loft or shed.

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