Adrian Bevington Q&A
With the humidity of the Amazonian jungle awaiting England, the World Cup in Brazil promises to be a testing time for all concerned. Pete Hall caught up with Club England managing director Adrian Bevington to discuss the FA's preparations for this summer's showpiece...
By Pete Hall - @Pistolpeteh86
Last Updated: 23/01/14 3:35pm
After Roy Hodgson's comments about his desire to avoid playing in Manaus, it was somewhat inevitable that England would be opening their World Cup campaign in the humidity of the Amazonian region.
"From the coaches I spoke to, we all agree that Manaus is not an ideal place to play football," was as clear a sign as any that England fans could have booked their hotels prior to the draw even taking place on 6th December 2013.
Hodgson's comments angered the local mayor, who countered the England's coach's view by doing his best to eulogise the facilities on offer, thus creating a media frenzy even before an under-pressure Three Lions squad touched down on the South American continent.
In what is ostensibly a tough group, every match will be pivotal to England's hopes of progression to the knockout stages of this summer's World Cup, with the tournament opener in potentially 80 per cent humidity no exception.
In preparation for such conditions, friendlies against Peru at Wembley, and then Ecuador and Honduras in Miami - where England will be based for their pre-tournament training, have all been arranged. The hotel in Brazil's party capital, Rio de Janeiro, has also been booked and a training camp at the Urca Military Base has all been set up.
But what else can be done to ensure England and primed and ready to take on the International footballing elite? What actually goes into planning for such a huge event?
We spoke to the Club England managing director Adrian Bevington to find out what stage the FA's preparations are at, what is left still to do, and the size of the operation at hand.
Adrian, how are the FA's plans coming along? With Peru, Ecuador and Honduras in the diary, is everything else arranged?
"It has all been two-and-a-half years in the making. We are very close to finalising everything. It was important to announce the three friendlies last week as we did, as it is important that Roy is happy with the opponents. After the draw, Roy's focus was very much on setting up some matches with South and Central American opponents and, from our point of view, it was important that we could deliver that within a build-up structure that works as well."
After changing your plans for pre-tournament friendlies, has the draw meant you have had to encompass more warm weather acclimatisation?
"We had been in discussions with the US Soccer Federation for some time now, and we have been trying to get a fixture on. The ideal scenario was that we were to look at playing a game in the States, and their preference was to play a game in the north east, or Chicago, but it became clear once the draw came out that it was paramount that we needed to maximise any heat and humidity preparation. Obviously with the first game being in Manaus, it is important that we prepare as best we can. It is very difficult to replicate that exact temperatures and humidity as Manaus but we have been assured Miami is as close as you can get to it."
Was basing yourselves pre-tournament in Manaus an option, or was Miami always going to be the likely base?
"We always had it in mind to work in Miami. The plan is to go from Miami to our basecamp in Rio, and then travel up to Manaus two-and-a-half days before we are due to play. We have had a number of meetings with our medical staff, our high performance staff and sports science staff since the draw and have been assured what we are doing is the best possible preparation."
What else can you do to ensure the players are ready to cope with the humidity and high temperatures?
"That is something for the medical and sports science staff to come up with. We are very experienced in that field. Our Head of Medical is Dr Ian Beasley who has been with the FA and leading clubs in England for many years, but he has also worked in the southern hemisphere in hotter climates. We have Gary Lewin who has also been to many tournaments with England, and in addition we have brought in Dave Reddinas Head of Performance Services, who worked closely with Sir Clive Woodward during England's 2003 Rugby World Cup success and was an integral part of the British Olympic team high performance at London 2012. Roy and his staff will sit and work out the logistics to see where we can make certain plans to make sure we are as best prepared as we can."
What sort of entourage will you guys be taking out there to ensure the players and coaching staff have everything they need?
"Obviously we take quite an extended staff, as do most nations these days. We have a team doctor, two physiotherapists, an orthopaedic surgeon, an osteopath, three masseurs, a conditioning coach, exercise scientist and a head of performance services. Then you have the non-technical staff who provide all the back-up behind the scenes. IT support, which is hugely important on the road, especially with all the scouting reports coming in. We will have two chefs, one who will be based at the team hotel, one will go ahead of the team to venue specific hotels 24 hours to make sure everything is prepared. This is not about saying that the facilities are not up to standard, it is about presenting the food normally to the players, as that is the fuel that they will need for training and for the matches. We will have a team of scouts out there looking at other games in our group and around the tournament. Security staff, travel management, sports analysis and press officers, of course."
Does the training base in Rio have all the required facilities? Does this meet your requirements?
"We always pride ourselves on having excellent pitches on which to play. Once we have decided on the training ground, we work with pitch specialists who work on the pitch during the months leading up to the tournament to ensure it is of the highest level. I was there at the training pitch the week before last, and already we are going to start working on that. The staff at the Urca Military Base are already doing some fantastic work but we will have staff just working on the pitch itself to ensure that when we land everything will be of the highest order and we have every confidence that it will be."
The team hotel is a far cry from the isolated accommodation of Rustenburg, South Africa at the World Cup in 2010, is it going to be a tall order to avoid the media frenzy that was created in Baden-Baden at the 2006 World Cup in Germany?
"I do not think it can be compared to what we had in Baden-Baden. If you look at what we had in the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, we adopted a very different approach. We accepted that we have to learn from 2010, where there is no doubt the team were isolated, and we can all debate what impact that had on the team. In 2012, we wanted the team to be more involved, and while Krakow was not a host city, it was still very much alive with the tournament. Likewise, in Brazil, we visited numerous facilities in a number of different cities but felt if you are going to a World Cup in Brazil people immediately think of Rio. We have gone for a hotel that gives us a little bit of privacy but we are only five or 10 minutes down the coast from Ipanema Beach [famous for its social scene], and still very central, and can get across town in 25 minutes to training. Roy is very happy with it."
What does it mean to be a 'Good Tourist' at the World Cup?
"What it means is that you are going to play in a World Cup, you are going with an aim to be successful on the pitch but while you are there it is what we can do to off the pitch as well. We will look to do something where we are visible. We will visit a Favela [shanty town] with some of the players, and look at how we engage with the England fans that have made the journey. It is important for the players to actually touch the tournament, rather than be locked away in a hotel. A World Cup should be a fantastic experience."
Has a decision been made about whether the wives and girlfriends of the players will be allowed to accompany the team?
"We will not be organising any official trips to the World Cup for the families. We had a situation in Poland where lots of families did come out, and that is entirely at the discretion of the individual players. There may be some time when we are in Miami for families to come out and spend some time with the players but again it will not be arranged by us. They will not be with us in the hotel in Rio."
What do you guys make of the stadia in Brazil? No issues over whether they will be ready in time?
"We have not seen all of them. Myself and Roy will be going out to Manaus next month to have a look at the stadium there. Everything we have seen so far has been very good quality and I think all we can do is to look to FIFA and the LOC [Local Organising Committee] to make sure everything is delivered as promised. From an English point of view, we have been delighted with our experiences in Brazil and have been warmly welcomed. The facilities we have seen on our visits, and when we played in June, have been outstanding."
Has the potential for public unrest led to you increasing the levels of security as the team travel around the country?
"No we have not. We have a head of security, who is very experienced, and will take our usual party with us, and work with the relevant authorities on that."
Have you taken advice from any other nations or other sporting codes when in your planning process?
"There are conversations between Roy and various people in other sports. Dave Reddin, myself and director of operations Michelle Farrah are in contact with our counterparts in other federations and people in Brazil as well. There is a lot of information gathering. I must say that whether it be other sports in this country or other federations in Brazil, they have all been extremely helpful, you can always learn from the experience of others who have toured in South America or played sport there."
Finally, have you made plans for the latter stages, or is that being too presumptuous?
"We have planned as you would expect for the full duration of the tournament, and would always plan that way. It would be more of an issue for us if we were not planning!"