Six England fans sleeping inside a 'tent' in sub-zero temperatures on the night of England v Germany in South Africa in 2010. Sometimes you have to make do if you want to keep to budgets at football tournaments.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
It is getting to the point where those of us who are planning to attend Euro 2012 really need to start coming up with some concrete plans. The question is: Is it really worth the effort and expense of going?
Having been lucky enough to attend five FIFA World Cups and five UEFA European Championships, you get used to the pre-tournament media scare stories:
Japan 2002 they told you that only a millionaire could afford to travel to the World Cup. It turned out though that you could find accommodation for as little as 15 pounds per night and a tournament train pass was as cheap as chips. I feel sorry for anybody who had planned to go to Japan but was subsequently put off by the media - it was a truly unforgettable experience.
Similar things could be said about the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Apparently - if you believed the press - hundreds of football fans were likely to be murdered in one of the world's most dangerous countries (total death toll: zero). And if you didn't get your comeuppance from the locals then South Africa's snakes (they were hibernating), virulent diseases, dangerous roads (often better than German autobahns), or an act of terrorism would spell the end for any football fan 'foolish' enough to travel. As it turned out, South Africa proved to be safer (and often felt safer) than a fortnight's holiday in Manchester.
But what about the Euro 2012 scare stories? Does MTAG give any of them credence?
MTAG previously visited Ukraine in 1999 and 2002 and would rate those trips as being right up there with some of our best travel experiences. Not only was Ukraine untouched and completely bereft of Western tourists but during your time in the country you sometimes felt like you had stepped in to a time machine and travelled back 50 years in time. Ukraine was incredibly exciting and incredibly 'real'. One thing I do recall though was the ridiculously high prices of substandard hotels. It wasn't uncommon for a decaying Soviet hotel passing itself off as five-star to charge guests 200 or 300 dollars per night. Fortunately, when I visited in 1999, my accommodation was paid for by the British tourism agency that I worked for at that time.
Fast forward to 2012 and it doesn't come as any surprise to MTAG to discover that hotels in central Kyiv and Donetsk are asking absurd prices for a night under their roofs; Ukraine's hotels have always been ridiculously expensive. The problem is though that anybody attending Ukraine Euro 2012 seems to have next to no choice when it comes to budget options. Because while there were those who travelled to Japan and South Africa and spent 200 euro per night on a hotel room, the normal fans got by on a nightly budget closer to 20 euro. It appears that that kind of budget in Ukraine simply isn't, in general, a possibility, and this is where the problems begin...
It is less than seven weeks until the tournament kicks off. MTAG has a ticket for France v England on June 11 in Donetsk. Forget trying to find a hotel in the city for the night of the match; not unless you are willing to cash out well over one hundred euros. But what about camping? How much would you expect to pay for a place in a tent? 10 euro? 20 euro if they are really taking the pi$$? Try 84 euro! Yes, a bed in a tent in one particular camp site on the night of England v France will set you back almost 100 euro. MTAG simply cannot afford those kinds of prices and certainly wouldn't pay that kind of money simply on principle. Frankly, it will be cheaper to sit in a bar all night and get the first train out the following morning.
South Africans on the way to England v Germany in Bloemfontein. You can't always be choosy about the mode of transport you use when you attend a world cup or a European championships.
And how about transport? Well, good luck to foreign fans who don't read any Cyrillic and who don't speak a word of Russian or Ukrainian. Yes, there will be volunteers and signs in English, but once you wander off the beaten track life isn't going to be easy. Let's not also forget that the distance between say Kyiv and Donetsk is approximately 600 kilometres. To put this in context, this is roughly the same distance as it is between London and Aberdeen, in north Scotland. Imagine therefore trying to get from London to northern Scotland on a fleet of 40-year-old buses and on roads that sometimes have more pot holes than asphalt. None of this is going to be easy, that is for certain...
...but will it be worth the effort? Probably, yes, but only time will tell. It looks like it is going to be a case of making it all up as you go along (as was usually the case in South Africa). MTAG will find places to stay and will somehow find a way of getting from point A to point B.
And, as was the case when we previously visited Ukraine in 1999 and 2002, More Than a Game is expecting the whole experience to be exciting and very, very 'real'. It is time though to start working out how to get to Ukraine within budget. A flight from the UK to Poland and then a bus to Kyiv? A train from Latvia through Belarus?
Friday, February 17, 2012
With many football fans put off from travelling to Ukraine Euro 2012 because of the reported high prices of accommodation, the message from More Than a Game is: shop around, be patient and don't panic.
It has been our experience from all past major tournaments that local hoteliers will, of course, jack up their accommodation prices prior to a FIFA World Cup or a UEFA European Championships in the hope that visiting supporters will be willing to pay whatever is asked of them.
Many supporters will already have foolishly bitten the bullet and cashed out 300 euro per night for an apartment in Kyiv; others sadly will have abandoned their original plans to travel to the Euro tournament. But, for those fans who are yet to book any accommodation in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv, try to remember that many fans and corporate guests will cancel their hotels (as they always do) just prior to the tournament, freeing up thousands of rooms in the process that hotel and guest house owners will then struggle to fill.
While most sites on the Internet offering accommodation are still asking astronomical prices, there are sites such as www.hotelsukraine.com/ua/en where you will find the odd gem, especially if you are willing to base yourself in satellite towns close to the host cities during the tournament.
The best site we have so far found on the Internet for accommodation in Ukraine is run by travel experts TUI. Putting in a random search for 'Donetsk' for 3 nights between June 12-15, we found accommodation available for as low as 40 euro per night for two people sharing a double room in Donetsk. Try www.accom2012.com for the dates you are looking for and you may strike lucky. The company boasts that they have 32,000 places in Kyiv alone.
Euro organisers will also be providing extra accommodation options in 'tented cities' during the Euros. So, whether you manage to book your accommodation in advance or decide to leave it until you are 'on the ground' in Ukraine, there is certainly no need to panic about Ukrainian bunk beds....well not just yet anyway.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Just 20 weeks to go until the start of Euro 2012 and I've finally got my Euro blog up and running. Kept doing the usual thing that I guess a lot of us do in early January and putting it off. Have felt a bit lazy post-New Year, especially planning for an event in mid-summer when it is mid-winter here in Latvia.
Have been trying to apply for UEFA accreditation for the tournament but my FAME password hasn't been working and, thus far, my emails to UEFA in Zurich, asking them to rectify the situation, have gone unanswered. The deadline is Friday so it seems like time is against me.
I have until mid-February to apply for England-only tickets through the English FA. Have been trying to wait until I know what the score is with UEFA.
At the moment it looks like I will be going to Ukraine with a group of friends from Norway, Estonia and the United States. My English mates are non-committal. I think a lot of them are starting to feel the pain of the UK's rather dire economic realities. Some others like Geordie Robin have grown a little tired of some of the more corporate aspects of these tournaments. Let's see how they feel later in the year when the press start hyping the Euros.
I am a big fan of Ukraine but not so Poland and, therefore, I think I will be happy to spend most of the championships in Ukraine. All of England's group games are in Ukraine as well as two quarter finals, a semi and the final in Kiev. I'd also rather hang out in places such as Lviv, Kyiv, Odessa and Yalta regardless of whether matches are being played there or not.
But what to do about the spelling of the Ukraine's two main cities? Kiev or Kyiv? Lviv or Lvov? I guess I will just use all four variations for now.
January 18, 2012
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino is said to be very impressed by the redevelopment of Kyiv's Olympiysky stadium:
"When I saw the updated stadium, I caught my breath and words failed me. This is a nice arena with an excellent atmosphere. The changes that have occurred at the Olympiysky stadium since my last visit are impressive. No doubt this is one of the most beautiful stadiums for the championship finals and the spectators coming here in summer will see this,"
The Olympiysky stadium will host a total of five matches during this summer's European Football Championships, including the July 1st final.