Hotel Football: all to play for?
Walking into Hotel Football, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped onto Wonder Woman’s island.
The all-female greeting party dazzle you with smiles. This hotel knows its target clientèle and plays to it perfectly.
The first hotel from the company owned by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, GG Hospitality, was always going to be across the road from Old Trafford. Having dipped their toes in the water with Café Football in London, this is an all-out assault to revolutionise football hospitality with not a prawn sandwich in sight.
The hotel itself is brand spanking new. My room had a knockout view of Old Trafford and I can only imagine the buzz of staying there on a match day. The football theme is ever present but not totally in your face. There’s lots of nice touches such as Class of ’92 themed toiletries in the changing room-inspired bathroom, as well as artwork on the walls commissioned from students at Salford University. Prints are available to buy which is a nice touch.
The same attention to detail has been given to other facilities in the room. A professional iron is a luxury rarely offered in hotels. At Hotel Football, the iron is proper good so you don’t have to spend an hour attempting to erase the creases from a shirt. As for the mini bar, it’s stocked with beer but, happily also with retro sweets and Vimto. One thought: the lack of mirror above the desk and a sole plug by the full-length mirror suggests that the female traveller wasn’t the target guest when the room designs were being finalised.
The all important hot drink selection is impressive, replete with herbal teas and strange coffee brewing bags but, thankfully for the brew junkies out there, four milk pouches.
And my goodness, the public areas are pretty spectacular. The Old Trafford Supporters Club in the basement is a cavernous space complete with pie shop and bar, destined to be the fans’ preferred pit stop on the way to the Theatre of Dreams. There are also various hospitality areas including Café Football and two other rooms, along with two private dining rooms. In addition to this, there’s the promise that at least one Class of ’92 legend will be working their way through the rooms on a given day. The only downside is that you need to get your tickets independently. The hotel cannot offer tickets to matches at this time.
The pièce de résistance is the five-a-side football pitch on the roof with a fully retractable glass ceiling that can retract in 2.5 minutes on a whim, or, perhaps more importantly, when Manchester’s weather takes a turn for the worse. The views over the city are amazing. What child wouldn’t want a birthday party up here? And, judging by the hyperactive children in reception clutching bags of sweets and balloons, it is a hit. I was told that if one of the Class of ’92 are in the building, they will always come and say hello to a birthday party as well.
Café Football downstairs looks like any other chain café upon first glance but, when you dig a little deeper, there’s an impressive attention to detail. The menu offers the usual fayre of burgers, pizza, salads and grills but, for dessert, could you resist a trip to the ice cream parlour or retro sweet shop?
The whole place overlooks the canal. Old Trafford is in the distance and there are huge TVs beaming the latest football match. The staff seem genuinely enthusiastic about the beautiful game and I am told that guests from other hotels are choosing to spend their evenings in the restaurant and bar because it’s friendly and easy to strike up conversation.
The breakfast is served in the café. It’s a welcome change to have it cooked to order instead of the congealed offering I’ve come across in other hotels. The presentation was a bit “plonk it on the plate” but it nothing too disastrous.
Overall, Hotel Football is onto a winning formula – if you love football. If you don’t love the beautiful game, it’s not hard to imagine it all wearing a bit thin. With 133 rooms at £100-£150 to fill all year round, I wonder if this new venture can diversify enough to compete in the already booming Manchester hotel market.
By Chris Park
Freerange Comedy Festival at Brewery Arts Centre Kendal
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