By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
5 December 2011
The England football team are always big news in England because football is so important, and because so many England fans care about every spit and cough, and because the media know this, hence cover every angle in detail.
That is the context in which The Sun today published a front-page ‘Exclusive’ about the ‘dump’ that is England’s Euro 2012 training ground.
You can read that story at the link here, and pay attention to the photos because it’s the photos – and essentially a couple of stripped walls in two rooms – that allows the ‘dump’ headline, and allows some rather over-egged descriptions about rubble and grubby bricks and other stuff.
Frankly, The Sun got lucky.
Why? Because its reporter and snapper arrived on exactly the right day to see the start of renovation work that will turn the home of Hutnik into a fit and proper venue for Fabio Capello’s England international team to use next summer.
Yes, the pitch is substandard as it is. In all probability it will need to be dug up and relaid and will take months of bedding in next Spring before it’s ready for England to use from 1 June.
But I was in Krakow last week. I went to Hutnik. And here’s a montage of photos I took of the exact same stadium and facilities that The Sun snapped over the weekend. (Story continues below).
The difference is that before Friday’s draw for 2012, there remained a small chance that England wouldn’t in fact be based at Hutnik.
The Netherlands long ago bagged one of Krakow’s professional grounds (Wisla) and Italy bagged the other (Cracovia).
And there was a chance that if Italy had been drawn to play in Ukraine, they would not have based themselves in Krakow. Then England would have switched to base themselves at Cracovia instead.
But Italy were drawn to play in Poland; and hence will stay in Krakow. And so England will use Hutnik.
Hence the builders came in at the earliest opportunity – this weekend.
And as anyone knows, when you redecorate a property, there tends to be mess.
And it was The Sun wot snapped it!
The one curiosity in the piece is The Sun quoting an FA source saying: “Uefa compiled an approved list of hotels and training grounds for us to choose from — but there was nothing suitable on it for England’s needs.”
This is odd because Uefa did indeed produce a ‘brochure’ and both the Netherlands and Italy picked decent set-ups within Krakow, and reserved them before England did.
Quite why it took so long for the FA to decide on Krakow is something only the FA knows or can explain. But England’s hotel in very pleasant. And Hutnik’s ground will be transformed come next summer.
The biggest winners in Krakow in Euro 2012, however, are the council, who actually own the Hutnik stadium.
The council were miffed that no Euro 2012 matches were being played in Krakow. So they bust a gut instead to persuade big teams to come to the city.
They landed Netherlands, Italy and England.
And they will use the fact that those three teams are based in the city to market it as a football fans’ paradise next summer.
There will even be a 15,000-capacity ‘fan zone’ in the city park that lies between Wisla’s ground and Cracovia’s. Big screens will be erected. Beer will be flowing. And fans from the Netherlands, Italy and England will be invited to use Krakow as a base and mix there.
One group of people who the city council forgot to tell about England using Hutnik’s stadium until the deal was sealed was … Hutnik. The story behind that is here.