Cheapest ways to watch football on TV 2021
Love football but hate the huge subscription costs to watch games on TV? Us too. So we're revealing our tactics for the cheapest or free ways to watch each major competition this season!
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! 🙂
What’s in this guide?
Which channels have football TV rights for 2020/21?
In 2020/21, the rights for showing live English, Scottish and European football on TV are shared between four broadcasters:
- Amazon Prime Video
- BT Sport
- Sky Sports.
Unfortunately, no single broadcaster has the rights to show every competition, and even the rights to individual competitions are sometimes split between channels too.
As was the case at the tail-end of the 2019/20 season when every single Premier League match was televised to compensate for the lack of fans in stadiums, every game in the competition so far this season has been broadcast live.
However, the number of free-to-air fixtures is significantly lower. While the Premier League has dropped its controversial pay-per-view scheme, the plan for the foreseeable future is to spread the vast majority of the extra games across the subscription channels, with a couple of games available on the BBC or Amazon Prime.
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).
Just note that, as the number of games to be broadcast on Sky Sports and BT Sport is constantly changing, we've used a figure accurate from the middle of November as a baseline. The ratio of new games is usually drastically in Sky's favour, so while these numbers may not be fully up-to-date, they give a good idea of how many games will be on each channel.
How many football matches does each broadcaster have?
|Broadcaster||Premier League||Champions and Europa League||FA Cup||Carabao Cup||EFL||SPL|
* All games will be broadcast live in some capacity, be it on BBC One (free), BT Sport (paid), the BBC website (free), the BT Sport website (paid) or the FA Player (free). The exact figures will differ from round to round, but BT Sport will usually have more games than the BBC.
** BT Sport broadcast every single UEFA Champions League and Europa League fixture (125 in UCL, 226 in UEL).
*** Includes all 15 playoff semi-finals and finals.
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
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 two types of Sky Sports Passes:
- Day Pass – £9.98
- Week Pass* – £14.99
- Month Pass – £33.99
- Mobile Month Pass** – £5.99.
* Only available to existing customers.
** Only available to existing customers, and only gives access to five Sky Sports channels (accessible only via mobile), compared to the usual 11.
While these prices may seem a little steep, there are loads of ways to get discounts on NOW memberships.
One of our favourite tips is to buy passes through third-party sites offering a discount, like CDKeys – at the time of writing, you could pick up a Sky Sports Month Pass for £24.99 (27% off) and Day Passes for £8.99 (10% off).
Crucially, CDKeys also sells some of the Sky Sports Passes that are usually restricted to existing customers only. For instance, at the time of writing, you could get a Week Pass for £9.79 (35% off) or a Mobile Month Pass for £4.99 (17% off).
Watch Sky Sports for free on Sky One
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 will usually get at least a couple of games each season.
Often these games will also be broadcast on Pick – a channel available on Freeview, which has been used to show some Sky Sports matches for free during the coronavirus pandemic. However, this isn't always the case, so how can you watch Sky One at a cut price?
Well, if you're ever lucky enough to have one of your team's games selected for Sky One coverage, or you just fancy watching whichever they go for, you could make a significant saving by buying a different type of NOW membership.
Sky One is 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.
Of course, as before, you can also use sites like CDKeys to get heavily discounted NOW Entertainment memberships – 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.
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 free trial of BT Sport
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.
During this free trial, you can watch BT Sport for free via the app, which you can also cast to your television (more on how to do that here). And, best of all, any data you use to stream content on the app won't count against your monthly allowance.
All you need to do is text "SPORT" to 150, but bear in mind that if you don't want to start paying for the app at the end of the three-month trial, you'll need to cancel by texting "STOP SPORT" to 150. 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 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!
Cheap BT Sport for Plusnet customers
Are you a Plusnet broadband customer? Good news: you can get BT Sport at a knockdown price!
We've got some of the best offers for new Plusnet customers in our guide to student broadband deals, but if you're an existing customer, it should still be pretty inexpensive to add BT Sport to your package and enjoy as much Premier League, FA Cup and European football as you'd like.
Plusnet broadband customers (note: not SIM only customers) can get access to the BT Sport app from as little as £10 a month and, as is the case with the EE offer, you'll be able to cast the app to your screen (here's how to do it) or watch via your PlayStation, Xbox or selected smart TV.
In fact, if you have a YouView television subscription as part of your Plusnet broadband package, you may already have BT Sport Lite. This is essentially just BT Sport 1 and it broadcasts every single one of BT Sport's Premier League games, as well as the rest of the sports shown on the channel.
Adding YouView to your Plusnet package costs just £5 a month (plus a £6.99 set up cost), so if you're only interested in watching the Premier League and aren't too fussed about European football, this could be a great shout! Just note that it runs on an 18-month contract, which isn't ideal for student tenancies.
How to watch football on Amazon Prime for free
The 2019/20 season was the first year in which Amazon Prime Video had the rights to some Premier League fixtures.
The streaming service has the exclusive rights to over 20 matches this year: including all 10 from game weeks 13 (15th and 16th December) and 16 (28th December).
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, more games than usual are being broadcast. As such, Amazon Prime has been able to screen more than the 20 games it was originally planning to.
Six months of Amazon Prime for free
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 2020/21 season, this was six months or less before the December fixtures), you can watch most of 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.
How to watch BBC without a TV Licence
Aside from showing the weekend's Premier League highlights on Match of the Day every Saturday and Sunday night, and the odd Premier League game during coronavirus, the BBC only has the rights to one competition this season. Fortunately, it's a cracker: the FA Cup.
Typically the Beeb shows up to 16 FA Cup games each season, depending on how many replays there are in rounds one to five. However, with FA Cup replays scrapped for the 2020/21 season, it's currently unclear just how many games they'll show.
What is clear, however, is that 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 BT Sport will have one semi-final apiece, with both channels showing the final live.
While it's easy to think of the BBC as being free (it's available on Freeview, after all), you will need a TV Licence to watch it... 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
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 awesome 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.
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