Everyone loves going to watch their team play. There’s nothing like being in a football stadium, surrounded by like-minded fans, watching 22 men fight for a win. A lot of hardcore football fans might go and watch their team home and away and maybe even watch their local team occasionally, but groundhoppers take this to the next level.
A groundhopper is somebody who collects grounds and stadiums by watching a match there and one such fan is Laurence Reade. He has gone to a massive 104 matches already this season and watched games in 1,889 grounds across 21 countries and three continents.
After hearing this from him, I looked at the number of grounds I’ve been to and it was a measly 39 in comparison. Though there is a massive difference in these numbers, it seems he didn’t originally go out of his way to chalk up this many stadiums, but that it grew organically: “I was watching Oxford United home and away and soon added the grounds to complete the 92. Then I started watching local football and went travelling further afield.”
Further afield is a bit of an understatement, as his two stand out experiences so far as a groundhopper are: “Visiting the Big Arch Stadium in Hiroshima and leading a party of 170 through security to watch a game on the inside of a military base.”
It’s not just about the big games for him, though, as he goes to a match every weekend and at least one midweek game every week. You would think that after 1,889 grounds it would be impossible to find more, but he manages to do it with a bit of help: “The bible for a groundhopper is the Football Traveller, a weekly fixtures magazine. There are some good Facebook groups too, Twitter is a handy tool and word of mouth helps.”
One thing that came to mind when thinking about groundhopping is that it could be expensive going to all these games in different places, but Laurence insists that is not the case: “It’s as expensive as you want it to be. You pick what interests you and is within budget. I’ve watched games in three continents, but I’ve watched park pitch student football too.”
Laurence has committed a lot Groundhopping, but that hasn’t taken away from his enjoyment, which is down to one main factor: “Beyond all doubt, it’s the people. You may enjoy a game, but it’s the people that make you go back for more.”
He still has a season ticket for his beloved Oxford United, so will he reach a number that will leave him contented to settle in the Kassam Stadium: “Definitely not! The fun is seeing where this road leads. There is no end.”
Read more about Laurence’s football travels over on his blog here.