Why does England’s squad never quite get its hotel choice right?

The England team have booked into the Golfresort Weimarer Land for the upcoming Euros
The England team have booked into the Golfresort Weimarer Land for the upcoming Euros

If the key to a successful international tournament is a perfect team hotel, England could be in for a good month ahead.

For the upcoming Euros, Gareth Southgate has booked his England team into the Golfresort Weimarer Land, in central Germany, for a rumoured sum of £800,000. The hotel is in keeping with his previous tournament choices in that it offers the holy triumvirate of privacy, recreation, and quality. But it falls down in one respect.

Located near a remote town called Blankenhain, with a population of less than 7,000 and 90 minutes away from the nearest city, Leipzig, the Golfresort ticks the privacy box. One Tripadvisor reviewer described the hotel as “nestled in a lush green forest” while another said “this is what we needed for rest, luxury and sports.”

On that note, the resort has three golf courses for the players to enjoy (Pickford, Walker and Kane are among the keen putters): two 18-hole courses and one nine-hole course. The resort also offers guided walking tours, e-bike rentals, plus team activities including raft-building, archery, and “team parcours” – presumably something that Southgate will advise against until after the tournament.

A standard double room at the Golfresort hotel, which boasts swimming pools, a gym and a spa
A standard double room at the Golfresort hotel, which boasts swimming pools, a gym and a spa

When it comes to luxurious offerings, the Golfresort has an extensive spa menu (a €110 hot stone treatment for John Stones, perhaps?), a selection of pools in the LindenSpa, and multiple restaurants to choose from. Although, as usual, the England camp will be travelling with its own catering team.

The only pitfall is the hotel’s geographical location. The Golfresort is a long drive from all three of the group stage stadiums, which are all huddled close together in the west of the country. As a result, the England team will only drive to the Frankfurt fixture (the closest, around three hours) but are expected to fly from Erfurt-Weimar airport, just 40 minutes away from the Golfresort, for the games in Cologne and Gelsenkirchen. It is likely the team will need to take more flights if they top group C.

While dining choices are on offer, the squad travels with their own catering team
While dining choices are on offer, the squad travels with their own catering team

This goes against UEFA’s sustainability recommendations for teams to drive to all fixtures where possible – indeed UEFA supplied a list of recommended hotels, which England ignored – although this was all advisory, not compulsory.

That aside, the Golfresort looks to be a fine pick. But England’s tournament hotel selections haven’t always gone to plan (scroll to the bottom for a list of notable tournament hotels since 1998). In the modern footballing era, we have seen England fans rocked by a three-in-a-bed scandal in an Italian hotel shared with the public, a Rio hotel with an unsavoury past, and a hotel plagued by noise complaints in Krakow city centre.

Five notorious England camp hotels

1990 World Cup, Italy

Is Molas, Sardinia

england team
England teammates Steve Bull, Paul Gascoigne and Bryan Robson at the World Cup Finals in Italy - Getty

Until 1990 the four-star Is Molas resort, located in southern Sardinia, was a perfectly respectable resort, perhaps best known for hosting the Italian Open in previous years. But that all changed when the England squad, with Paul Gascoigne in its ranks, checked in for the 1990 World Cup.

It was no coincidence that England ended up on the island, cut off from mainland Italy. Hooliganism was rife and the British government requested that all three of England’s group matches be played in Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia, to minimise the number of England fans who could feasibly descend and cause chaos.

Still, England’s tournament wasn’t without its scandals. Is Molas gained notoriety after British newspapers reported, inaccurately, a three-in-a-bed scandal involving a hotel worker. She later pleaded her innocence by arguing that she would never have slept with a member of the squad because they were too ugly.

Bryan Robson’s attempt to meet with a faith healer, one Olga Stringfellow, to cure an achilles problem was also splashed across the newspapers, although any progress was in vain after Robson ended up injuring his foot during an ambiguous after-hours incident involving Paul Gascoigne.

Were you to feel so compelled to relive the antics of England’s world cup team, all those years ago, Is Molas remains a high-end destination hotel, with views out to the sea of Sardinia and the hills of Sulcis in the distance.

  • Cost per night: Doubles from around £150

  • Rooms: 72

  • Tournament rank: Knocked out in the semi-finals, losing 4-3 on penalties to West Germany

2002 World Cup, Japan

Westin Hotel, Awaji Island

The legacy of England's stay at the Westin Awaji continued long after the World Cup
The legacy of England's stay at the Westin Awaji continued long after the World Cup

For centuries, the remote Japanese island of Awaji’s claim to fame was as the setting of the legend of Izanagi and Izanami – the Adam and Eve of the Shinto religion – who were said to have formed a union there. But that was before Sven Goran Eriksson’s England squad arrived.

There were worries in the lead-up to the tournament. The town of Tsuna was so quiet that most Japanese people hadn’t heard of it. There were just 10 police officers at the time, and enormous screens had to be erected around the lone, spongy football pitch that had lured the FA to book there in the first place.

When the tournament arrived, the island gave a warm welcome to the England camp, with flags lining the roads saying “Welcome to Tsuna Town!” and “England, do your best!” in Japanese and English, while Shinto priests recited prayers for England’s success, and local preschoolers even performed songs for the players.

There were no scandals at the Westin Awaji (which is today called the Grand Nikko Awaji), although some photographs emerged of a topless Teddy Sheringham at training and David Beckham larking about after scoring a goal. However, the legacy was ongoing for the Westin Awaji Island.

“We are getting around 80 calls a day,” said the resort manager, shortly after the tournament had ended. “Most wanting to sleep in the bed vacated by David Beckham.”

  • Cost per night: Doubles from around £132

  • Rooms: 200

  • Tournament rank: Knocked out by Brazil in the quarter finals, after Ronaldinho lobbed David Seaman

Euro 2012, Poland and Ukraine

Hotel Stary, Krakow

The Telegraph rated the Hotel Stary /10 at the time
The Telegraph rated the Hotel Stary 9/10 at the time - Alamy

After accusations that the England squad were bored out of their minds at its isolated “Camp Capello” resort in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup (see below), the FA took a different tactic in 2012 and booked Roy Hodgson’s men into a five-star hotel in a city centre location.

It may have been that they didn’t have a choice. The Deputy Mayor of Krakow, Magdalena Sroka, said: “By booking early, the Italians and Dutch secured their first-choice hotels and training bases – unlike England.”

Still, the Hotel Stary wasn’t a bad choice. Telegraph Travel’s expert hotel reviewer gave the hotel 9/10 after their 2018 visit, writing: “Rooms and suites have been created with sensitivity inside this 19th-century palace, which lies within sight of the main market square. A gastronomic restaurant lies under vaulted ceilings while a sky bar and summer restaurant offer magnificent views from the rooftop.”

On arrival, the team coach struggled to negotiate the final bend before the hotel, only to be greeted by hundreds of fans. Despite its politely opulent interiors, the hotel was reportedly noisy at night, with the main square just around the corner and a Hooters bar in the vicinity. There was also another noise complaint: a bugle, played every hour from the nearby St Mary’s Church.

“Of course we will play [it] during the whole Euro tournament as well as usual – it’s through the night also. It is 24/7,” said Ms Sroka, ahead of the tournament.

  • Cost per night: Around £238

  • Rooms: 78

  • Tournament rank: Knocked out in the quarter finals after losing 4-2 on penalties against Italy

World Cup 2018, Russia

ForRestMix Sport & Relax Resort, Repino

RestMix was called a 'modest base' at the time
ForRestMix was described as a 'modest base' by the BBC - Julian Simmonds

Gareth Southgate personally opted for this resort in the sleepy Russian village of Repino, around an hour north of St Petersburg by car, where many wealthy city dwellers own second homes.

The four-star hotel – with a particularly unassuming yellow-and-brown exterior – was less showy than England’s previous international accommodation, with the media picking up on the fact that rooms cost less than a night at a British Travelodge.

“It is a modest base but one the Football Association and Southgate regard as ideal for their needs,” wrote the BBC at the time.

The complex included a training hall, which looked more like a school hall, and private lounges on the “executive floor” where the England players were booked in. There was also a gym, 25-metre pool, a sauna, table tennis and Russian pool, which is played on a longer table, with bigger balls and smaller pockets.

It may not have had bells and whistles, but there was one feature that appealed to the English organisers: “The internet has become key to any World Cup environment,” said the former England physio Gary Lewin at the time.

  • Cost per night: Around £120

  • Rooms: 105

  • Tournament rank: Knocked out in the semi-finals after losing 2-1 to Croatia

World Cup 2022, Qatar

Souq Al-Wakra, Doha

The four-star hotel was an understated option
The four-star hotel was an understated option - Paul Grover

When David Beckham and Gary Neville visited the Souq Al-Wakra hotel for an interview before the 2022 tournament, Neville joked: “Who chose this?”

The hotel, four-star rather than five, was once again more modest than what the England players would have been used to: described by The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson as: “Just about as far removed as you could imagine from the high-rise opulence associated with some of Qatar’s staggering growth.” Perhaps, given the political climate around the tournament, opting for an understated option was a sensible move by Southgate. The standard rooms were small; and in the off-season, rooms go for less than £70 per night.

What the hotel did offer was privacy – the main courtyard is shielded by high walls and palm trees – and close proximity to the England training camp. Another bonus, from the point of view of Southgate and his management team perhaps, was that not a drop of alcohol could be found at the hotel.

  • Cost per night: Doubles from £66 per night

  • Number of rooms: 101

  • Tournament rank: Knocked out in the semi-finals after losing 2-1 to France