By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
4 December 2011
The English FA’s decision to base themselves in Krakow during Euro 2012 may inadvertently lead to a local club, Hutnik Nowa Huta, going bust, according a senior local official, Sportingintelligence can reveal.
England’s training base will be the Stadion Suche Stawy (SSS), the council-owned home of a fourth division side, Hutnik.
The FA had to settle for this run-down facility, not endorsed by Uefa, because the Netherlands and Italy had already bagged the grounds of the two Polish top-flight clubs in Krakow – Wisla and Cracovia – as their 2012 bases.
The FA did the deal to rent the SSS directly with Krakow council, not Hutnik, and the deal stipulates nobody but England can play there between 1 February and 7 July 2012.
This means Hutnik will effectively be homeless from when the Polish league season resumes after the winter break in March until the end of the 2011-12 league campaign in June.
Hutnik are a fan-owned club, started last year after their predecessor club went bust. As a consequence, they don’t own their own ground but rent it – but the council got more money from the FA than Hutnik pay, and only dropped the bombshell on Hutnik in late October that they’re being evicted for half a season.
Hutnik are party to regular council planning meetings about England’s visit next summer, and at the latest, last week, suggestions were made about where Hutnik could go instead.
The council have suggested Hutnik groundshare during next Spring with Wanda Krakow of Poland’s eighth division (while the FA ‘own’ their home between February and July) but Hutnik’s vice-president, Adam Gliksman, exclusively told Sportingintelligence: ‘Wanda play in a speedway stadium, the pitch is awful and there is no electricity.
‘We have been hopeful of securing the one promotion place from our division this season because we’re in second place now. But being forced into a sub-standard stadium could hurt our chances on the pitch, and damage us financially if attendances and commercial income drop. Things are already tight financially.
‘I don’t blame the FA because I don’t know if the council even explained the consequences to them. I’m proud to think Hutnik’s home might help England do well at Euro 2012. But we were only told by the city council in October that someone else might be renting our stadium in the second half of the season and it was a shock.
‘Because of England’s deal we need to find somewhere else to play and it’s problematic. I am seriously concerned this will damage our promotion hopes. It might finish us.’
Gliksman, 34, whose day job is working for the Solidarity union made famous by human rights campaigner and Nobel Prize winner Lech Walesa, was instrumental in forming Hutnik Nowa Huta in 2010 as a fan-owned club, in the mould of FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon.
Their 62-year-old predecessor club, Hutnik Krakow, went bust with debts of £1.5m, having been in the Polish top division and in the Uefa Cup (playing Thierry Henry’s Monaco) as recently as 1996-97.
The financial meltdown meant the council took ownership of the stadium, which is run on a day-to-day basis by Siemacha, a powerful local Catholic business organisation.
Hutnik’s budget is small but they operate as a community club with average gates of 1,000 this season. Ticket prices are £2 for adults and £1 for concessions but most of their income goes on rent to the council (£300 per game, £600 if floodlights are needed). Their best paid player earns £350 a month and most earn £100 a month.
The council, hurt that Krakow missed out on staging any Euro 2012 games, has done all it can instead to get big teams basing themselves in the city so it can promote Krakow as a Euro 2012 destination anyway. England, the Netherlands and Italy are good names to have.
Hutnik’s fate is considered to be the acceptable collateral damage.