St. George’s Park officially opened earlier this week, and is intended to be as impressive as the intention behind it. Following the success of certain footballing academies, such as La Masia, the heart of Barcelona’s youth system which has so carefully ingrained their footballing ideologies at as early an age as possible. Quite simply, England are attempting to copy what has been so successful for others. A number of national teams have taken notice of youth development, and at this point it’s almost cliché to point out the revitalisation of the German national team roughly a decade ago.
Yet England have taken it a step further with this giant 330 acre construction. Costing upwards of £100 million, hosting more than fifteen football pitches, and boasting state-of-the-art everything, the aim is to create technically stunning generations of footballers, and a sense of belonging.
One reason the FA has pushed this project ahead, after temporarily cancelling it in 2003, is due to the lowering percentage of English to foreign footballers in the Premiership. Estimated at around 35%, an influx of foreign money and a surplus of foreign talent has led every manager to look abroad for cheaper, and often better players. Many people have complained about the reduction in home-grown talent, but the answer is startlingly obvious: there are few, if any world-class English players, with the exception of Wayne Rooney, and Joe Hart in a couple of years. The FA wants to better their European rivals in terms of numbers of officials and players, with Spain’s La Liga serving as a prime example: the vast majority of players in the league are Spanish, with many more being Portuguese, a close equivalent.
The focus isn’t just on players either, but on training referees and coaches. The FA’s intention is to make St. George’s Park the home of English football, incorporating classrooms to literally teach football, embodying the Park as a university of the game. The benefits of this gargantuan scheme will be substantial in the build-up to Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup, but the effects won’t truly be felt until the next generation of English footballers comes through. At which point, they’ll play a shit country and still get beaten.