24 hours in the first football themed hotel…


How do you turn a hotel located opposite a football stadium and inspired by the beautiful game into a well-oiled hospitality business that profits even when there are no games to pull in the punters? Siobhan Ousley went to find out just how lucrative Hotel Football in Manchester has already become.

Hotel Football is the world’s first hotel dedicated entirely to the ‘beautiful game’. With striking interiors paying homage to Manchester United FC, a rooftop football pitch and a restaurant menu that aims to capture the essence of one of the nation’s most favourite sports, Hotel Football is tapping into a new captive market.

For any non-footy fans, if you haven’t already turned the page, then stick with me. Because while Hotel Football certainly isn’t for the faint hearted – with a tagline ‘eat, drink, sleep football’, it wouldn’t make sense to stay there if you were completely repulsed by the idea of sleeping opposite a football stadium – the hotel hasn’t been created exclusively for hardcore fans of the Red Devils.

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Wherever you stand in your appreciation of the beautiful game, Hotel Football is certainly an intriguing business model. The high occupancy figures and fully booked rooms on match days would suggest that the hotel’s former footballer owners have uncovered a gold mine.

Hotel Football is the brainchild of old teammates Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, created in partnership with GG Hospitality, and officially launched at the end of February this year. The 133-bed hotel employs 81 full-time staff members and is situated directly opposite Old Trafford (refer to my earlier comment about not being for the football-haters). Also in residence is Cafe Football – the hotel sister to the standalone eatery at London’s Westfield – which offers a menu of laid back footy grub with a posh twist.

So how does a hotel designed on and inspired by one of the nation’s most lucrative sports make sure it’s a viable year-round business that appeals to the masses?

BH went to Hotel Football to experience the Stadium Package and see if the hype matched up to the offering. An experience that included a meet and greet with Manchester United stalwarts Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs, a four-course meal created by Michael Wignall and complimentary drinks throughout the day.

On arrival you’ll find the reception is tucked away, almost giving the impression that the rooms are secondary to the stylish restaurant, basement supporters’ club bar, modern function rooms and, of course, the Football Heaven five a-side pitch on the roof.

Once inside the hotel, you do fall into a football fans paradise; the navigation is well thought out, and the classy facilities complement the one-of-a-kind views of Old Trafford, alongside themed, interesting community-based artwork throughout.

The four-course menu from two Michelin-star chef Michael Wignall was slightly disappointing. The menu itself was full of promise but failed to deliver on some aspects; the duck was overcooked and the venison and foie gras didn’t quite live up to expectations.
The service however was impeccable from the many staff members and went a long way to make up for the disappointment of the food.

The Football Experience treats on offer at the Supporters Bar are affordable, with the bar itself being a really great space for those who can’t get to the game itself. Pool tables, TV screens, sofas and the décor give the feel of a more underground basement space.

The Panini football stickers are emblazoned on the walls throughout, obscured by the tasteful design, but encourage nostalgic conversations among guests. The very 90’s selection of mini-bar goodies and the traditional sweet shop in the Café Football bar are an unexpected treat too.

World Cup ball evolution designs adorn the walls that would appeal to many a WAG too. Football pitches and even ice cream pictures made from footballs appear on the walls of the restaurant also and the washrooms are decorated with football-shaped tiles on the floors.

HF and CF logos run throughout the lively hotel, from the backs of chairs, serviettes, bath robes, to the covers on the butter at breakfast; Hotel Football lives up to exactly what it says on the tin.

The rooms are also well thought out; the little touches are impressive. Slogans embroidered on the white crisp pillow cases, striped mugs that suit the theme, tasteful furniture – there’s nothing that hasn’t been carefully thought through and considered.

Breakfast is a real treat. With no tiny juice glasses that you have to fill up more than once, nicely sized glasses with plenty of juice and water, and a great big cafetiere full of freshly ground coffee.

The modern colour scheme and use of glass is spot on; this theme is consistent throughout the hotel and clearly a key focus when designing the final product.

From the outset this is a venue that may not initially appeal to the football lover’s wife or girlfriend and could be seen as a venue that is booked for a one-off night or weekend stay given its niche positioning. However, I challenge any football lover’s partner to not be swept away by the football magic; it doesn’t take long for it to start to run through the veins and you can really immerse yourself in the total experience.

Hotel football as a complete product is incredibly personal and it feels like you are getting a tiny snippet of Ryan and Gary’s personalities as each treat is unearthed.

You can’t escape the football theme but why would you want to? This isn’t standing around on the touch line on a cold windy day, it’s classy, tastefully designed and terribly well thought out.

When you take each component into consideration and it poses the question of why has this niche market been left untapped for so long? It’s a straightforward idea and executed the right way could prove to be highly profitable. Creating a hotel on the doorstep of a captive audience is a no-brainer, but when combined with the fact that football is probably the biggest sport in the UK, it appears to be all too good to be true. But Hotel Football is demonstrating that this is one market that they want to not just pioneer, but also dominate, so it’s now a case of watching this space to see which clubs, developers or operators are brave enough to dive in next.

Hotel Football so far…
Opened: February 2015
Owned by: GG Hospitality and Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
Number of rooms: 133
Staff members: 81 full time
• 24k people have stayed at the hotel since it opened
• The rooftop pitch has already been booked out for two weddings next year
• Hotel puts a strong focus on the conference and events market to bring in business out of the football season.
• On match days the hotel gets completely booked out.
• On match days, Hotel Football offers a Players Lounge package which includes a pre-match buffet, unlimited drinks and access to the Players Lounge three hours before kick off.

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Zoe Monk

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