Both Manchester City’s new Openshaw training centre and Tottenham’s new facilities in Enfield will contribute towards the development of clubs already achieving success. By choosing to invest in their infrastructure, as opposed to simply buying players, the two clubs are helping to ensure both the long and short-term future of their clubs. Moreover, they are paying for it at a time before Financial Fair Play has come in to effect.
Manchester City’s new 80 acre training facilities at Openshaw West have been built to include a state-of-the-art gym, new medical facilities, a hydro-therapy pool and technical suites used to analyse matches.
The new plans for the training ground also include a small 7,000 seat stadium, seventeen pitches and on-site accommodation. To complete the progressive feel to the project City have instructed the centre to be as ‘green’ as possible. As such it will include giant underground water tanks which will collect and re-use rainwater; solar, geothermal and wind energy are also being considered as means to power the site. Finally, City have imported 6,000 trees from Germany to help bring wildlife to a part of Manchester normally associated with urbanisation. The whole project is said to have cost City over £50m.
Tottenham’s new Enfield training ground is based over 67 acres and includes eleven outdoor pitches, one made of artificial grass with the main training pitch complete with under-soil heating. It is said to have set Spurs back over £45m. It will also include a small indoor pitch and a central building, which includes a “learning centre for the Academy and educational space, medical facilities, a hydrotherapy / swimming pool, fitness centre/gym, changing rooms, a canteen and media centre.” (Spurs’ website)
Whilst these new training grounds may seem like costly projects we should emphasise that both clubs have made the decision to spend the money on these facilities at the right time. With UEFA’s financial regulations beginning in the 2013/14 season there is little time left to make the necessary investments and reduce the debt.
Had Tottenham or man City waited it would have been extremely unlikely that they would have been able to afford such investments. The debt of the clubs is limited to €45m for the first two seasons and a club owner may not invest more than €5m per season, even then they are only allowed such donations if that debt is turned in to equity.
Therefore, the question should be asked: will any other teams be able to build new training grounds once FFP comes in to effect or have they missed their chance?
Clearly some refurbishment will be affordable for Premier League teams yet nothing of this scale could be afforded without a sponsor subsidising the majority of the project.
Not all clubs are in danger of being left behind. Arsenal and Chelsea both recently built similar training grounds. Arsenal said that after an initial £10m investment their investment in London Colney has now reached £30m and Chelsea’s ground in Cobham cost owner Roman Abramovich £20m. However there are many league teams who have perhaps not invested to an appropriate standard in time.
Liverpool’s Melwood was redeveloped in 2001 but, for the size of the club, does not contain the same standard of facilities as the size of the club suggests. United moved into the Trafford Centre in 2000; although it is relatively modern the twelve years between then and now have seen dramatic increases in sports science and with the approaching FFP rules weighing heavily on the mind of a club with massive debts it seems unlikely that they will be able to redevelop the Trafford Centre in the near future.
Ultimately, it takes more than just a strong squad to maintain a level high enough to break in to the highest echelon of clubs in England. Sustainability is key and modern training grounds are all part of this. In their last Champions League final Barcelona fielded eight players that had been trained at the club. That is something that all teams aspire to. However, if investments in training centres have not been made by clubs at this stage it is hard t imagine when they will be able to afford such schemes in the future.
Moreover, for a club such as Manchester City, the development of home grown talent is key to the owners’ long term vision for the club. Brian Marwood said:
“It is important to also make clear that the development and recruitment of youth talent is at the heart of our long term strategy of building a successful and sustainable football club for the future.
“The opportunity to build a world class facility supported by a well researched youth development plan would be a significant step in the realisation of that strategy.”
If UEFA are to be believed, the days of clubs spending their way to the top could be coming to an end. Up until now Man City, Chelsea and others have been relying on the finite plan of spending vast sums of money each year. These academies could change all of that. Investing in projects and initiatives like this is not only a huge step towards being able to develop young players but it also helps to attract them in the first place.
There is more to attracting young players than simply promising to nurture them, these new training centres provide empirical evidence that their ambitions can be realised with a certain club.
Furthermore, the technology at these stadiums allows clubs really extort the maximum potential from their players by analysing their performances with the most high-tech equipment and adjusting training accordingly. Financial Fair Play is intended to revolutionise the way that many clubs conduct themselves. Man City, Tottenham and others have recognised this; they are creating an environment in which they can excel without huge, annual financial investments in players.
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