St. George’s Park is best known as the base for the England men’s senior national football team. Most of the high profile coverage from the facility, or mentioning it, is usually related to the activities of Gareth Southgate and his side.
But its official description as a “national football centre” for the English Football Association is more accurate and shows that there is much more to the Staffordshire base than is often presented in the media.
Since it opened in 2012, St. George’s Park has been used as a training and rehabilitation base for various teams, and even across a range of sports. This includes supporting the growth of disability football and being the home of England’s para teams.
“We want to offer the same opportunities and level of facilities for any team that comes through our doors and onto our grounds,” says Holly Murdoch, General Manager of St. George’s Park.
“We take great pleasure in seeing younger generations of disabled footballers coming to St. George’s Park to train or play for the first time and are proud of the role we have played so far in helping further establish para football.
“The future is incredibly exciting—the playing standards of all our para teams are up there with the best in the world and improving with every training camp held.”
The centre has hosted training camps since it opened 2012 and most recently welcomed the England Blind and England Cerebral Palsy teams on-site in October.
Prior to this, the FA Disability Cup Finals returned to St. George’s Park for a fifth year during the past this summer. They were first introduced in 2016 and offer players across the country within impairment-specific football a national competition of their own.
The finals weekends see five different events taking place with power chair, cerebral palsy, blind, partially sighted and amputee squads all competing for titles.
The site has also hosted competitive and recreational games over the years including the Cerebral Palsy World Cup in June 2015, featuring nations from across the globe competing for one of seven Paralympic places at Rio 2016.
The Tony Larkin pitch on the site is one of only two blind pitches in the UK, and is designed to meet the unique surface and playing conditions required for blind football.
“The facilities at St. George’s Park are world-class and provide the best opportunity for young players to develop their skill set, not only on-pitch but also in the classrooms and sports science spaces as well,” says the head coach of the England blind team, Jonathan Pugh.
“It’s massively important the England Blind team gets to use the same facilities as the other England teams, not only to prepare for games but to create the right environment for them as athletes.
“St. George’s Park is very much focused on a high-performing, player-centred culture, with extensive services and support from The FA, and I’m sure it will help bring success across disability and para football in the coming years.”
Providing such elite level facilities across the board in football and in other sports across the country is part of The FA’s plan for the development of disability football, ‘Football Your Way.’
Through this initiative the governing body is looking to develop and grow disability football in all formats, at all levels, prioritising inclusion and access to facilities from the top of the game to the grassroots.
This includes growing participation at a recreational level as well as organising competitions, and increasing the number and quality of coaches working with disabled players. This will work towards ensuring the game is accessible to as many people as possible at every level, regardless of the format.