Groundhopping refers to a popular pass-time among football fans that involves collecting stadiums. Groundhoppers visit as many football games as they can to see as many stadiums as possible.
For many fans, seeing the stadium they visit on away games of their club is not enough. Especially, if your club does not regularly partake in international competitions.
Groundhopping is said to have started in England in the 1970s, spreading to Germany in the 1980s. Today, you will likely come across groundhoppers in almost every major (and often minor) stadium you enter.
Why Do Football Fans Groundhop?
Groundhopping comes with a cost as fans have to spend money on transportation, tickets, and food every time they visit a new arena.
However, groundhoppers see their passion like filling a sticker album or collecting stamps. They get a sense of satisfaction from visiting as many stadiums as possible and ticking visited ones off their list.
For some fans, the satisfaction comes from seeing a specific kind of stadium, like the Camp Nou in Barcelona or La Bombonera in Buenos Aires. And, of course, there are the amazing atmospheres you can find at football games in countries like Argentina, Greece or Italy.
But groundhopping can also involve visiting non-league football pitches at the far bottom of the football league pyramid. The atmosphere might not be as good there, but the beer and the tickets will be cheaper.
There are no set or fixed rules for groundhopping. However, there are some ground rules most hoppers believe should be followed when embarking on a trip.
The most popular of all the non-written rules is that you must have seen a football game in the stadium to tick it off your list. Some fans do not follow this rule strictly as they still count visits to parks on non-match days.
Another rule is that you should see at least 45 minutes of a game for the ground to “count” as visited.
However, each groundhopper follows his or her own rules when it comes to visiting grounds.
The Groundhopping Community
Groundhoppers also have a community where fans share their progress and tips on what fans should look out for.
The “Groundhopper” app (now called Fotbology), for example, is a popular tool used by the community to get information on grounds, including directions and the fixtures at the venue.
Online forums on groundhopping are also a great resource for finding information on venues and organized trips for travelers like you.
An Expensive Hobby
Unfortunately, football is usually not for free. That means groundhopping costs money.
The costs are lower if you visit lower league clubs. Visiting grounds of top European clubs, however, can become very expensive very quickly. Especially if your trip involves flights and accommodation.
Groundhopping is a hobby (and for some a passion) shared by many football fans. Next time someone sits next to you in a stadium speaking a foreign language, chances are they are a groundhopper.