St George's Park gets royal approval

The Duke of Cambridge has given the royal seal of approval to the new National Football Centre at Burton which it is hoped will help deliver long-term glory to the England team.

The Duke, who was joined by his wife the Duchess of Cambridge, formally opened the £105 million St George's Park project which was first muted more than a decade ago.

"Coming here and seeing these wonderful facilities gives the same feeling as when I first went to the Olympic Park. It gives me great pride we have created in this country facilities that are beyond compare anywhere else," said William, who is president of the Football Association.

"St George's Park is a concept totally new. It will provide more than just world-class facilities for our national team and more than a university from which hundreds of coaches will graduate. It will provide employment and a social hub for local people and will foster community spirit and purpose and hope throughout England."

The aim is for the 330-acre complex to produce more and higher-quality coaches - and with it better players to give England the best chance of becoming a major footballing force.

Long-term investment of a similar nature by France and Spain at their respective bases in Clairefontaine and Madrid was key to their recent World Cup and European Championship success.

David Sheepshanks, the chairman of St George's Park, said: "We are investing in the future and the long-term success of the England side with St George's Park. Now is just the beginning. We hope for quicker returns but this is an investment for the long term.

"The full benefits will be seen in a decade or so. That is what we have to believe and it comes down to better coaches making better players.

"We hope to increase significantly the number of higher-level coaches - UEFA A, B and pro-licence - because as things stand we are well behind the likes of Spain, Italy and Germany numerically."

FA chairman David Bernstein echoed the comments of Sheepshanks, who has overseen the project, saying: "It is a momentous day in our history. What has been achieved here is breath-taking. It is an inspirational training base for all our national teams and for coaches an Oxbridge of football."