May is a big month for football in Europe. All the main cup and league competitions will be decided; and that means fans from all over the world will be flying to the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Italy to cheer their teams over the line.
Many will be doing so in style in the top clubs’ VIP lounges. These lounges have come a long way since 2000, when one Manchester United player was a little dismissive of the corporate guests who ‘have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches’.
There’s far more on offer now than a few drinks and prawn sandwiches. Football has caught the experiential travel bug, and the competition to attract affluent supporters from all over the globe rivals the intensity of the action on the pitch.
Here are the best places to get your kicks around Europe.
Paris Saint-Germain, Parc des Princes
Together with The Peninsula Paris, the reigning Ligue 1 champions have created a once-in-a-lifetime experience to live a PSG-inspired dream in its 47,000-seat stadium. The caveat: it costs €20,500 (HK$182,000) for one adult and one child. The Peninsula Academy package includes being escorted onto the pitch by your favourite player, a signed football and shirt, plus two VIP tickets to enjoy a game.
Manchester United, Old Trafford
The No 7 at Old Trafford package will be a popular choice. Included are padded stadium seats in the No 7 suite, in the heart of the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, a five-course meal, a Q&A with a club legend, plus the usual champagne and canapé reception on arrival. The blankets, hot drinks and hawker-style snacks available to take to your stadium seats are a nice touch given Manchester’s squally climate.
Atlético Madrid, Wanda Metropolitano
Real Madrid has the fame and the galaxy of star players, but their more humble neighbours win many real football fans’ hearts. The Wanda Metropolitano, which hosts the UEFA Champions League final on 1 June, underwent an overhaul less than two years ago and offers matchday hospitality options that give even their famous neighbours a run for their money. Known as Neptuno – Atlético de Madrid Premium, the La Liga club’s VIP packages offer season ticket holders access to premium suites; boxes; and VIP seats with a personal HD TV monitor – each of which comes with premium food and beverage catering.
Tottenham Hotspur, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
The North London club has finally moved into its (as yet unnamed) £400 million (HK$4 billion), 62,000-capacity stadium, the second-biggest football club ground in England, behind Old Trafford (74,994). Fans have access to a range of premium options, including the immersive Tunnel Club, which offers behind-the-scenes views of the players’ tunnel through one-way glass and pitch-side seats beside the home team’s dugout. With tickets only available in pairs and costing £19,000 (HK$190,000) per season, plus a one-off membership fee of £30,000 (HK$300,000), it takes the prawn sandwich brigade to a whole new level.
Bayern Munich, Allianz Arena
The Bundesliga giants have taken the ‘armchair football fan’ concept one step further with a hotel suite overlooking the pitch at the Allianz Arena. After striking a partnership with Courtyard by Marriott, Bayern Munich can now offer football supporters the opportunity to enjoy the team’s domestic league and European fixtures with an unrivalled view of the action from a king-size bed. You must be a member of Marriott’s loyalty scheme with a significant amount of rewards points to be eligible.
The 1892 Lounge is the best pick of Anfield’s hospitality options. It includes a four-course meal, a visit from a Liverpool legend and a seat in the main stand next to the directors’ box. For a slightly less formal experience, opt for a spot in The Carlsberg Dugout – a bright and social sports bar with street food stalls, which also comes with a match ticket in wing sections of the main stand.