Written By: Carl Weldon
There are many kind of hotels – from resorts to five star and to budget. However, I was able to attended the National Hotel Marketing Conference held in the Midlands of the U.K. – at a Hilton – known as Hilton St Georges Park. One chain hotel is the same as another right? Definitely wrong in this case.
I was wondering why there was a Hilton here – effectively in the proverbial “middle of nowhere.”
Now as you may know, England takes its football (or soccer in the U.S.) extremely seriously. The English Premier League (EPL) is covered worldwide, and who has not heard of Manchester United when it comes to football? We did win the World Cup in 1966 you know?
The English football team has had various facilities for its training, development and general fitness for some years, but the newest facility is actually at St Georges Park. Right next to the Hilton.
In fact, the whole hotel is “branded” England Football – and not just the men’s elite level, but all levels including the ladies (not yet at the same level as the USA Ladies I am afraid), and also referees and the like. So the artwork around the hotel in the bedrooms, corridors and other public areas is all English football-related in some way. The various areas are also named accordingly. The bar area has all the large TV facilities you would expect – plus some very special photographs from soccer history on the wall.
The hotel itself is designed with flexibility for visiting teams. Whole floors, or even wings, can be closed off or made private to minimize interaction with “normal guests.”
The function and banqueting space is also very flexible to allow for teams who visit to eat together. On the day I was there, it was a function space for 180+ delegates, but you could see the dividing spaces and separate doors to sub-divide the space.
What took all this up a notch for me though, was a tour of the space next to the hotel, which you can see in some of the pictures with this post.
A whole Astro-turf indoor pitch the same size exactly as Wembley’s pitch dimensions (England’s usual home ground).
Outside another full grass pitch the same dimensions as Wembley – plus it is watered and mowed at exactly the same time as at Wembley. The fitness and physical development facilities were immense.
From a business perspective how does this help the hotel? Well first of all, England stays there every time it gets together before a match or tournament. Team, management, medics, physios, etc.
Then there is the regular youngsters and academies. Also the EPL referees visit once a week for their reviews and fitness for two nights a week.
Other teams have started to use the facilities away from where they would normally train. Barcelona is due in the summer. Other sports have started to use the fitness and development facilities – rugby and boxing both recently and in the future. (Apparently rugby players lift a substantial more weight than football players, which needed to be added into the gyms.)
Plus there are the fans: even for them there is an autograph wall to admire, signed by some legends and modern greats; and yes, even David Beckham has signed it.
All in all, a very interesting and different facility that actually benefits from being in “the middle of nowhere.”
Carl Weldon is the COO of Europe for HFTP. Contact Carl at Carl.Weldon@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4164.