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Jan 19, 2010

New England football centre inspired by Real Madrid

The planned £100 million new home of England football has been inspired by Real Madrid's state-of-the-art training centre and will aim to reverse the influx of foreign coaches into the English game.

The designers of the national football centre (NFC) at Burton-on-Trent visited similar set-ups in France, Italy, Holland and Germany and chief architect Alan Smith admitted they were most impressed by Real Madrid's training facilities.

"Real Madrid have the best facilities, they are stunning. We have aimed to include the best parts of that in this centre,'' he said.

England Under-21 team manager Stuart Pearce, a strong advocate for the NFC, said every major European country already had such a centre, and suggested it was time that England joined them.

"Most of the serious nations in Europe have national football centres - either they have all got it drastically wrong or we have. Hopefully this will be the best in the world.

"Players will be able to come to the centre and aspire to be the best. We have to have an environment when we have no excuses about our preparations. We have to have British-based coaches who can match the CV of people like Fabio Capello.''

Plans will now be submitted for an associated hotel and office complex on the 330-acre site, with a target of mid-2012 for completion.

David Sheepshanks, chairman of the NFC - now renamed St George's Park - insisted that the funding issues that have dogged the Burton scheme since it was first launched in 2001 were close to being resolved but admitted there was still "a manageable gap''. A private housing scheme for 30 homes is part of the plan to plug that gap.

"The funding process is at an advanced stage but we have to wait until the tendering of the hotel - we are down to a shortlist of four hoteliers, any one of which we would be happy to work with," Sheepshanks said.

"For the balance we already have the majority of the funding in place, through sponsors Umbro, some grant funding and FA funding which was always pledged. We are left with a manageable gap and we have a number of initiatives in play.

"This cannot be a white elephant, it must be sustainable financially and there is a robust business plan that makes this viable and sustainable. One of the long-term aims is to see English coaches being educated at the centre and going on to manage our top clubs and national sides.''

The announcement of the plans have breathed new life into a project that was mothballed for years due to the cost of building Wembley Stadium and the opposition of some in the Premier League and Football League that it should be closer to London.

Both leagues are now supportive of the scheme and Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, said he hoped the major obstacles to progress have now been removed.

Brooking said: "In the past not every part of the football family has been behind it but all the stakeholders are now supportive and that's a massive plus.

"The Premier League and Football League are now behind it and I believe clubs will use this too. There are funding issues but there are lots of good partnerships discussions going on.''

The FA have already sunk £25 million into the project since 2001 and the plans feature 12 pitches - including one synthetic and indoor - plus sports medicine and sports science facilities, two hotels and a conference centre. The League Managers' Association have also committed to making the new centre their future headquarters.

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