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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 19:23 GMT
FA unveils national centre
The FA's technical director Howard Wilkinson
The cost of the project is estimated at 50m
The Football Association has promised that England's first ever National Football Centre will be "the best in the world".

Work has already begun on the 350-acre site near Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, which is due to be completed in 2004.


The centre has been designed so that it will be at the very edge of what people need in 15 years' time
FA technical director Howard Wilkinson

The 50m centre is entirely funded by the Football Association.

The facilities include a full size indoor synthetic pitch, a further 11 outdoor pitches, a gymnasium and indoor ball court, as well as a sports medicine and science centre.

The indoor arena at the centre will have video cameras in the roof.

And there will be giant screens so that coaches can stop the action and show instant replays of things they wish to go over at the flick of a switch.

There will also be a system to track individual players.

There are also accommodation and conference facilities for up to 300 people.

"Part of the strategy we formulated four years ago was a plan to produce the best coaches in the world and the best players in the world," said FA technical director Howard Wilkinson.

"For that, you need the best facilities, and this centre will be the best in the world because we have left no stone unturned.

"I believe we have found the best possible location for the centre.

"The site, which was formerly the rural retreat of the Bass family, is geographically as close to the centre of England as you can get, with excellent transport links.

FA technical director Howard Wilkinson
The National Football Centre is based at Burton

"The setting is very conducive to the aspirations that people in football have.

"And it has been designed so that it will be at the very edge of what people need in 15 years' time.

"I have looked at most of the centres in Europe and a couple in South America, and I feel we have come up with something which suits our needs.

"I took Sven-Goran Eriksson and his assistant, Tord Grip, through the plans and the design elements.

"And they both said it was the best they had ever seen and were delighted with the facilities.

"They hope they are around when it is opened!"

New Wembley doubt

It is anticipated that the centre will be used all year round.

Apart from the national teams, it will be available to clubs and foreign teams visiting from abroad.

It will also be the base for the FA's residential coaching courses.

"The new centre will enable us to deliver on the potential expectations of football at every level in England and to further capitalise on the recent successes of our young representative teams," said Wilkinson.

The fact the centre is located in the heart of England will cast fresh doubt on a new national stadium being built at Wembley.

But Wilkinson refused to comment on that prospect.

"In an ideal world, you need to get from the National Football Centre to the national stadium as quickly as possible."

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's David Eades
"Boys as young as eight will be rubbing shoulders with the first team at the same venue"
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