Last month, I was invited to take a look around the FA’s new national football centre at St George’s Park near Burton-upon-Trent.
I was there to hear about the technology used at the centre and to speak to the FA’s CTO Rob Ray about how technology plays such an important role in administrating the sport in England. I spent less than 24 hours at St George’s Park, but that was enough time to appreciate just how impressive a facility it is.
Set in 330 acres of Staffordshire countryside, the new £110 million centre is home to England’s 24 national teams (all age groups, men and women’s teams, and disabled teams) but is also where coaches will be instructed how to implement the FA’s future game plan to teach the next generation of footballers.
From Wembley to Maidstone
The attention to detail is staggering. There are 11 outdoor pitches, including one that is made of the same turf as Wembley Stadium and is cut at exactly the same time as the one in London. There is also a full-sized indoor pitch made from artificial 3G turf, the same used by Maidstone United at the Gallagher Stadium. So it’s obvious that Maidstone and Wembley are the two most important surfaces in England then.
The England rugby team trained here during the Six Nations and are reportedly interested in building something similar. After visiting Pennyhill Park before their game with Ireland in February, it’s easy to see why the RFU would want something more state of the art.
The UK may not have the weather of Australia or the college sports system of the US, but it does have the financial resources to aid sporting success. The impact of National Lottery funding on Team GB’s medal count at the 2012 London Olympics was obvious, while Britain has some of the best sporting arenas in the world.
While we’ve seen unprecedented sporting success in this country over the last ten years, England’s national football team has not been able to end 47 years of hurt (and counting). St George’s Park won’t change everything overnight, but it’s clear that it is a facility to make any nation in the world jealous.