In the second part of our interview with St. George’s Park Managing Director, Julie Harrington, we discuss the progress made in the first six months, the challenges involved in bringing the national football centre to life and what the next six months have in store.
Q: You were appointed as Managing Director in December 2011. Looking back to when you first started, what were your feelings when faced with the challenge of launching this landmark facility?
JH: I was never fazed by the challenge because in my previous role I ran 10 horse racing venues, two or three of which were just as big as St. George’s Park.
What was daunting was the profile. Whilst horse racing is a lovely sport it is also quite a minority sport.
What really excited me about this role was the fact that there are bigger objectives here.
If we do this well we can be part of creating the future of English football and that remains the challenge.
Q: How would you assess the first six months of St. George’s Park?
JH: I am really pleased. We can’t be cavalier about it, but a lot could have gone wrong in the first six months.
Like any new start up business there was some teething trouble but we have taken off remarkably quickly.
We have five aims in place: home for the 24 England teams, home for coach education, centre for sports science and medicine, a place where other sports and the rest of the football family can meet and interact, and being sustainable for English football.
We have reviewed the business six months in against those five measures and we are exactly where we want to be.
Q: In these first six months, do you think The FA has faced a challenge of winning the public’s hearts and minds when it comes to justifying St. George’s Park?
JH: I don’t think it is just the public, I think we had to be sure ourselves.
We had many stakeholders as well as the general public to get on side and persuade them that this was the right thing to do.
By focusing on developing better coaches we will hopefully develop an increased number of better players in the future.
Q: What has the reaction been from the England squads and coaches?
JH: All the 24 England teams have been here and the feedback from the coaches across all the squads has been fantastic.
They are getting more value out of the precious time they have with squads because they now have everything under one roof.
John Peacock, for example, said he feels like he is getting an extra day out of his camps, which has got to be good news.
Q: How has coach education benefited from the move to St. George’s Park?
JH: It has really been about The FA’s coach education team having a smooth transition from Wembley to here. They have done a fantastic job not just in moving but in keeping the same level of customer service.
What they have got now is a stable base to launch new products and new CPD products to support the coaching workforce.
There is now a shift in focus from getting coaches qualified to how do we support our coaches and how do we help them continue to improve?
Q: And how have the sports science facilities been received?
JH: All of our 24 England teams have been amazed by the sport science facilities here and we are now starting to get rehabilitation projects from other clubs.
We have players coming here for their own private rehab as well as the general public who come for treatment on sports injuries.
So the centre is now beginning to be known as the place to go if you have sustained an injury.
Q: What do the next six months hold for St. George’s Park?
JH: It is really going to be about working closely with the Football Development team.
Sir Trevor Brooking has got a new recruit coming, Dan Ashworth, who is going to be Director of Elite Development.
And we will be making sure that everything that goes on here at St. George’s Park is focused on achieving the next level and on hitting Football Development’s objectives of producing better coaches.