St. George’s Park has received much spotlight as the new home of England’s 24 representative teams. However, the new £105 million national football centre will play an equal role in the development of grassroots football.
Delegations from the football associations of Austria, Switzerland and Belgium attended the Burton-Upon-Trent site this week to gain an insight into The FA’s strategy for grassroots football.
Per Ravn Omdal, UEFA Grassroots Ambassador, was left enthused by the three-day study visit.
“We have had some brilliant presentations from people working with education and development within The FA.
“England is a country, for many reasons, that people look up to in the European football family,” explained Omdal, who is the former UEFA Vice-President and former President of the Norwegian FA.
With The FA’s recent Youth Development Review prompting significant change to the design of the grassroots game in England the visiting countries were given much to consider.
“The methodology at the highest level in everything that The FA is doing on the development of the game is extremely solid, tested and approved.”
An outline of the child-centred and flexible formats of football now on offer in England were presented, as well as insight into a number of supporting coaching and education initiatives including The FA Tesco Skills programme and The FA Vauxhall programme.
Eric Abrams from the Belgian FA, was particularly impressed by The FA’s decision to consult with children to see what they wanted from their own grassroots football experience.
“It was very interesting that The FA started to listen to what kids want.
“That is important because the players have to have fun and if they have no fun on the field then they will drop out, which is what has happened in the last few years.
“I think the number of players will now grow thanks to the plans they have and with this centre, which is fantastic.”
Each of UEFA’s member nations has the opportunity to request study visits to countries of their choice. The visit is very much a compliment for The FA’s continued work at the grassroots level of the game.
Other presentations included The FA’s link with the County FAs and The FA’s Young Leadership programme.
“Here at St. George’s Park there are middle sized countries, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium who can learn and adopt something from England,” added Omdal.
Education is at the very core of the values and beliefs of The FA’s national football centre. The UEFA study visit scheme gave those from England the opportunity to learn of developments in other countries.
Omdal believes these initiatives will help the game to progress.
“That is the wonderful thing about the study groups that we come together and share things. There are no secrets, but we say, ‘we do this, you do that, what is the best way to do that? How do we adopt it?’”
Each weekend players, teams and parents from the Burton Junior league, the local Sunday league and Burton Albion ladies are based at St. George’s Park.
FA Level One courses for new coaches and Level one and two continued professional development days for those working in the grassroots game will be held at the site in the future.
The inclusivity of the site made an impression with the visitors.
“The most important things for grassroots will always take place in their home clubs and schools, but the fact that The FA has opened this for the local community and the local grassroots will prove a big inspiration.
“And the fact that it is opened in this manner and rented out for the community to use, I think is fantastic,” concluded Omdal.