FA unveil training centre plans

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The Independent Football

Plans for a permanent training base for the England team - renamed St George's Park - were unveiled by the Football Association today

The 330-acre National Football Centre (NFC) in Burton-upon-Trent will feature 12 pitches - including one synthetic and indoor - plus sports medicine and sports science facilities, two hotels and a conference centre.

The scheme will fulfil a similar role to France's Clairefontaine and Coverciano in Italy, and England head coach Fabio Capello has backed the project that is finally taking shape eight years after it was first announced.

Capello said: "The venue will be an inspirational site, a place for coaches and players to work, learn and develop.

"This is a much-needed facility and through my own experiences at Coverciano in Italy I understand the importance of the centre for England."

The FA have already sunk £25million into the project since 2001 and the plans also include a private housing scheme for 30 homes near the entrance to the centre that will help plug a funding gap.

NFC chairman David Sheepshanks said: "Our aim is to make St George's Park a sporting destination of choice for coaches, players, administrators and officials alike.

"In Wembley we have a world-class stadium and in St George's Park we have the place to inspire world-class performance."

The League Managers Association have committed to making the new centre their future headquarters.

Sheepshanks said England were the only major footballing country in Europe not to have such a centre.

He told a news conference in Burton: "We feel it is time the NFC had a new identity and we hope this name St George's Park will reflect the sense of national pride that will accompany the centre when it is open.

"Every single leading European country has a national football centre - even Bulgaria - and we are the only leading European country that does not.

"Every country that has won the World Cup has one apart from us.

"We don't have a Clairefontaine, we don't have a Coverciano, we don't have a Zeist [Holland's NFC].

"The 'Special One' Jose Mourinho said he was staggered we did not have a national football centre and Arsene Wenger has said he could not imagine that the country does not have one."

Sheepshanks insisted however that the £100million St George's Park development, which is being sponsored by Umbro, would not be a mere replica of other centres, and would not be a youth academy but would be a base for all England senior, junior and disability teams.

He added: "We are not here to replicate any one of the other centres, we have been to look at them and share best practices to pick up the best ideas to serve our needs.

"This is not a finishing school for young players, that role is carried out very well by the Premier League and Football League clubs, this has a different slant. This is not an academy and is not in competition with our professional clubs."

There has been some opposition to the location of the centre so far from London but Sheepshanks said Burton was a central point for the whole country, and stressed that it would not be a financial burden on the FA.

"This has got to be England-centric and Burton is easy to get to from anywhere in the country and very accessible from a number of airports," he said.

"This cannot be a white elephant, it must be sustainable financially and there is a robust business plan that makes this viable and sustainable.

"This is will mean England success for the long term.

"It will be world class but that doesn't mean extravagance.

"And in terms of cost there has never been a better time to enter a construction tender process."

The architects of the centre are redboxdesign who designed the Academy of Light in Sunderland.