It seems to be such an obvious idea, to mix hotels, F&B, huge screens and soccer in a series of “football” hotels, but until very, very recently, no one tried. Now two Manchester United stars have announced a 25-asset rollout. Jumpers for goal posts, anyone?
Never miss an opportunity to talk about soccer or music is my credo, and here I go again.
Hotel management company GG Hospitality plans to expand Manchester United’s Hotel Football into a global franchise with 25 hotels and a combined room count of approximately 5,000.
I wonder why this has not been done before. According to the world soccer authority FIFA—the one with all the trouble, corruption allegations and criminal indictments—a billion people watched the final of the last World Cup in July 2014.
A startup hotel company can only dream of such a potential target audience, but so far the only soccer-related properties are standalones, mostly.
A look at some efforts do not make for good reading, such as in this June 2014 blog. Few outside Thailand would know what Amari Buriram United is, and I have not heard a word about further development of Real Madrid’s and Liverpool’s planned hotels since they were first announced.
Former Manchester United member and current Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo has an agreement with Portuguese hotel company Pestana to open a series of CR7-branded hotels. So far only two are open, with another two in the pipeline, and they are boutique properties, not to carry the theme of the Beautiful Game.
But Hotel Football and Manchester United, it pains me to say, looks like they will be crowned kings.
Launched in 2013, GG Hospitality opened the Hotel Football in Manchester, England. Two of its investors—and in essence the face and soul of the enterprise—are former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, who were part of the same golden generation of United players that included David Beckham.
The other side of its business, Café Football, launched in December 2013 with a 120-seat café in Stratford, London. This gives me a legitimate “in” to mention I support West Ham United—a football club admittedly with a trophy cabinet far, far smaller than Man U—which started playing its home games in Stratford this year after saying a fond farewell to its Upton Park home (in the same borough of London) after 112 years.
The café part of the empire will soon open in Manchester before going abroad with a 2017 opening in Singapore. Hotel Football will follow the same tactic by opening a second asset in Manchester, adjacent to the original, and then scoping out the rest of the world, initially Europe and Asia, which are two soccer-mad continents.
No foreign hotel destination has been mentioned.
It might well be, too, that Singapore is chosen, as GG Hospitality’s 75% owner is Singapore-based Rowsley Limited, owned by billionaire Peter Lim. Lim also has a 50% ownership in Neville and Gigg’s part-owned soccer team Salford City, which plays five levels down from Manchester United but might well join their far larger Manchester peers as, with all sports, money buys good players and more money buys the best.
Any number of former stars could have lent their faces to marketing efforts, such as Zinedine Zidane (ZZ Hospitality?) who would then quite possibly and effortlessly watch his franchise go global.
Zidane also played for Real Madrid, which is as large a global franchise marketing sensation as Manchester United, but Man U is massive in Southeast Asia—no, not massive, but immense, ginormous, Brobdingnagian—and more likely have the stronger legs to succeed much more quickly in this global game of scale and synergies.
I wish them all success. Just not against West Ham.
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