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Lifestyle

Cheapest ways to watch football on TV 2021

Love football but hate the huge subscription costs to watch games on tele? Us too. So we're revealing our tactics for the cheapest or free ways to watch live football on TV.

jermain defoe marcus rashford aleksandar mitrovic and raheem sterling in front of craven cottage

Credit: pejotav (background), CosminIftode (left, second right), Jose Breton- Pics Action (second left), Oleh Dubyna (right) – Shutterstock

There are two types of people in this world: those who love how much football is on TV and those who don't. We're guessing you're in the former group, and if so, you've come to the right place.

But no matter how much you enjoy watching football, the cost of subscribing to every channel showing the Premier League, Champions League, SPL, Football League and more can be eyewatering.

Read on to discover which channels have the TV rights to each competition and league this season, plus the cheapest (and even free!) ways to watch live football on Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video. All legal, of course.

See the best TV & broadband deals for getting Sky Sports or BT Sport within a discounted package deal.

Which channels have football TV rights for 2021/22?

remote pointed at football on tv

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In 2021/22, the rights for showing live English, Scottish and European football on TV are shared between five broadcasters:

Unfortunately, no single broadcaster has the rights to show every competition, and even the rights to individual competitions are sometimes split between channels too.

The big change in the 2021/22 season is that, following the return of fans to stadiums, a significant number of games won't be broadcast live.

During the pandemic, matches were played behind closed doors, so every fixture was broadcast live on either BT Sport, Sky Sports or the BBC to compensate. However, now fans are allowed into stadiums, we're back to the way things were pre-coronavirus.

Other changes for this season include the fact that the FA Cup is now exclusively broadcast on terrestrial TV (with the BBC and ITV sharing the rights, the latter replacing BT Sport), and the introduction of a whole new continental cup: the Europa Conference League.

So, if you're wondering where to watch the Premier League, Champions League, Carabao Cup or any other major competition this season, this table breaks down which channels have which live matches (remember that highlights are often available on free-to-air channels, or online).

How many football matches does each broadcaster have?

BroadcasterPremier LeagueEuropean CupsFA CupCarabao CupEFLSPL 
Amazon Prime video20-----Deals »
BT Sport52All*----Deals »
Sky Sports128--1513848Deals »
BBC--18----
ITV--20+----

* BT Sport broadcasts every single UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League fixture.

Cheap Sky Sports deals and offers

Although it doesn't quite have the monopoly on TV rights it once did, Sky Sports is still arguably the biggest sports broadcaster in the UK.

Sky Sports has more than double the number of English Premier League (EPL) games than any other broadcaster, including all first-pick matches (basically meaning they can show the best game every weekend) and the Monday and Friday night football slots.

The Carabao Cup and English Football League are also exclusively available to watch live on Sky Sports, and it's also the only place to watch live Scottish Premier League (SPL) fixtures.

Cheap NOW Sky Sports Memberships

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Credit: Cosmin Iftode – Shutterstock

If you're a slightly more casual football fan, or you only fancy paying to watch your own team play, you might be better off buying NOW passes as and when you want to watch Sky Sports.

NOW (formerly NOW TV) offers three types of Sky Sports Passes:

  • Sports Day – £9.99
  • Sports Month – £33.99
  • Mobile Month* – £5.99.

* Only available to existing Sports Mobile customers, and only gives access to five Sky Sports channels (accessible only via mobile), compared to the usual 11.

While some of these prices may seem a little steep, there are loads of ways to get discounts on NOW memberships.

For instance, at the time of writing, NOW themselves had a couple of offers running. This included one to get a Sports Day and five months of Mobile Month membership for £9.98 – that's less than the cost of a Sports Day pass (admittedly only by a penny), with four extra months of Mobile Month thrown in too.

While these offers often change, it's definitely worth checking for offers before committing to paying full price.

Cheap Sky Sports Passes »

Watch Sky Sports for free on Sky channels

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Every now and again, Sky will decide to double up and show a game on Sky One as well as Sky Sports. This only tends to happen on special occasions (like the first game of the season, or during the festive period), but Sky One has usually got at least a couple of games each season.

Of course, Sky One has now closed down and been replaced by Sky Showcase and Sky Max. It's unclear which of these channels will get the free games as and when they're shown, but we'll update this guide as soon as we know.

Often these games will also be broadcast on Pick – a channel available on Freeview, which was also used to show some Sky Sports matches for free when fans weren't allowed into stadiums. However, this isn't always the case, so how can you watch Sky channels at a cut price?

Well, if you're ever lucky enough to have one of your team's games selected for Sky Max/Showcase coverage, or you just fancy watching whichever fixture they go for, you could make a significant saving by buying a different type of NOW membership.

Sky Max and Sky Showcase are both included in a NOW Entertainment Membership, and although these are only available in monthly form, the RRP is a pretty reasonable £9.99 a month – the same price as a Sky Sports Day Pass, but with 29 extra days thrown in too.

And that's not to mention the seven-day free trial you can get as a new member, which could let you watch the Premier League for free.

There are loads of ways to get cheap NOW memberships, so to save us repeating ourselves, check out our guide to streaming films and TV for less.

Free NOW trial »

While we're on the subject, make sure you read our tips for saving money on Netflix and beat the constant price rises.

Cheap BT Sports deals and offers

BT Sport is the only place to watch the Champions League and Europa League in the UK, and once again it'll be showing every single game from both competitions.

And as if that wasn't enough, BT Sport will also be showing over 60 English Premier League games and additional live clashes from round one of the FA Cup all the way through to the final.

Get a three-month BT Sport free trial

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The BT Sport app is usually reserved for those who are already subscribed to the channels through their broadband or TV provider. But for EE customers, there's another way.

If you have a pay monthly, tablet, data or 12-month SIM only contract with EE, you'll be eligible for a three-month BT Sport free trial on your phone.

During this free trial, you can watch BT Sport via the app at no extra cost. And, best of all, any data you use to stream content on the app won't count against your monthly allowance.

To sign up for your free trial of BT Sport, you'll need to go via My EE (either online or on the app). Just make you remember to cancel before the three months are up – otherwise, you'll probably have to pay £10 a month to continue using the app, plus extra if you want to watch the football on your TV.

We say "probably", as if you're an EE customer and on a Smart or Full Works Plan, you can select the BT Sport app as one of your Smart Benefits (again, at no extra cost).

Finally, whether you're an existing EE customer or looking to join the network, it's always worth seeing if you can get the BT Sport app added to your plan either for free or at a discounted price. We've heard stories of it working, so check out our tips on haggling and try it for yourself!

Get BT Sport on EE »

EE offers a 20% student discount, too.

How to watch football on Amazon Prime for free

The 2021/22 season is the third year in which Amazon Prime Video has the rights to some Premier League fixtures.

The streaming service has the exclusive rights to 20 matches this year, opting for every single fixture in game weeks 14 (30th November and 1st December) and 20 (28th December).

While 20 games may not seem like much, there are some seriously tasty fixtures included. The first batch includes a Merseyside derby in the form of Everton vs Arsenal, while Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford. And, in the second round of fixtures, you can look forward to Leicester taking on Liverpool.

Six months of Amazon Prime for free

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It's one of our favourite deals, so forgive us if you're already in the loop – but as a student, you're entitled to a six-month free trial of Amazon Prime Student.

Amazon Prime Student has pretty much all of the same major perks as the standard Prime offering, including access to Prime Video. Amazon's Premier League games are available to watch on Prime Video at no extra cost, meaning if you're a Prime member, you'll be able to watch the football too.

This also means that, as long as you sign up for your free trial at the right time (in the 2021/22 season, this is six months or less before the December fixtures), you can watch Amazon's games for free. We repeat: you can watch Premier League football games on TV for free.

Again, though, you'll need to remember to cancel your free trial before the six months are up – otherwise, you'll automatically be charged either £39 or £3.99 (depending on whether it becomes a monthly or annual subscription).

You can only sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime once, so if you've already used yours, we'd recommend signing up for one month of Prime at the beginning of December.

That way you'll be able to watch almost all of Amazon's Premier League games, and get free next-day delivery for your Christmas shopping, for the bargain price of £3.99.

Get Amazon Prime Student free »

Amazon Prime Student offers one of the best free trials out there – and here are the rest.

How to watch BBC and ITV without a TV Licence

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Aside from showing the weekend's Premier League highlights on Match of the Day every Saturday and Sunday night, the BBC only has the rights to one competition this season. Fortunately, it's a cracker: the FA Cup, which this season it shares with ITV.

Typically the Beeb shows up to 16 FA Cup games each season, depending on how many replays there are in rounds one to four, while ITV will show at least 20.

Between them, they'll be showing at least one game per round from the first round onwards. At the business end of the season, the BBC and ITV will have one semi-final apiece, with both channels showing the final live.

While it's easy to think of the BBC and ITV as being free (they're available on Freeview, after all), you will need a TV Licence to watch both channels... except when you don't.

Despite TV Licensing making a big deal about the fact that you even need a licence to watch iPlayer, we've uncovered a totally legal loophole (as confirmed by TV Licensing themselves) which could let you watch live television without paying for a TV Licence.

Check out our guide to the TV Licence loophole for more info!

How to watch live football on TV for free

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If you'd rather not pay to watch live football on TV and, for whatever reason, you're unable to use the above tips on watching matches for free, there is one more way to do it: go to a pub or bar that's showing the game.

There's a decent chance your students' union will screen games on Sky Sports and BT Sport – and, if so, this is almost certainly the cheapest way to watch live football on TV (bearing in mind that the cost of a pint is usually less than at a normal pub).

If your SU hasn't forked out for Sky or BT, then beyond complaining that your tuition fees should be going to worthy causes such as this, your next best bet is to head to the pub.

Although they can be relied upon for pretty much anything else, Wetherspoon pubs almost never have Sky Sports or BT Sports (this is partly how they manage to make everything else so cheap). Instead, you'll need to find another fine public house to watch the game – and that's where MatchPint comes in.

MatchPint is an handy little app that shows you pubs and bars in your area that are screening whichever sporting event you're interested in. What's more, MatchPint will also sort you out with a free pint when you get there!

The only downside is that in order to be featured on the app, pubs and bars have to supply MatchPint with the information they need. So, while it's fair to assume that the ones listed on the app are showing the game, there's no guarantee that places not listed on the app aren't showing it too.

And, although it's technically free to watch football at the pub, it's worth weighing up the cost of paying to watch it at home against the money you'll end up spending on drinks and eating out.

Cover the cost of watching football with our risk-free matched betting loophole!

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