Work to begin on National Football Centre in Burton
Plans for the Burton centre were unveiled as far back as 2001
Building work on the National Football Centre in Burton will begin in January, the Football Association has announced.
The FA board has unanimously approved plans for the much-delayed centre and also agreed to underwrite it financially to the tune of £105m.
Building work is due to finish in the summer of 2012 with the FA aiming to use it as a coach education centre.
"St George's Park will be a world-class facility," said National Football Centre chairman David Sheepshanks.
With the announcement coming a day after England were soundly beaten by France at Wembley, FA board member Sheepshanks told BBC Radio 5 live: "St George's Park won't be an instant panacea for all the ills of English football, but what it will be is a catalyst for a step change in the way we go about educating our coaches.
"If we get the maximum number of highly-qualified and adept coaches in this country at all levels, then the chances are they will inspire better players.
"And so the thing becomes a virtuous circle. It's important to understand it's a long-term project to benefit English football over hopefully many decades to come."
Characterised as an English version of France's Clairefontaine academy or Italy's Coverciano, the FA wants the centre to become the hub for a workforce of 1,400 coach educators to train 250,000 coaches by 2018.
But since the FA first bought the land on the 350-acre site in 2001, the project has been beset by delays.
Doubts over funding were not helped by the costs of developing the new Wembley Stadium, which ran to over £750m, and at one point it looked like the concept might be scrapped altogether.
Eventually, the FA approved the centre in December 2007, and confirmed it would be located in Burton in June 2008.
"We have been working on this project for many years and it just happens to be [on Thursday] that we got there," said former Ipswich chairman Sheepshanks.
"The decision means that we can open in 2012 and help to deliver the first exciting legacy of a golden summer for sport in this country.
"St George's Park will be accessible to all, aspirational, educational, sustainable and iconic, a truly national centre for our national game in the heart of England.
"[It] will provide top-class education for future generations of English football coaches.
"It will also be an internationally-leading sports medicine and performance research centre, a training home to enhance international team development and an inspirational hub for everyone involved in football from the grassroots to the elite."
FA general secretary Alex Horne added: "Today's decision is excellent news for English football.
"There is a demonstrable need for a national football centre, in particular to elevate the status and improve the quality of coaching across the country, which addresses a critical barrier to participation at the grassroots level.
"We are delighted to have put together a sustainable financial package to deliver the centre."
A hotel and housing complex is planned alongside the centre to help bridge the funding gap.
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