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A Case Study of the New Training Facility | BlueArmyBlog | A Carlisle United Blog

Updated: Jan 23


An AI-created image of what our new training facility could look like.


I've taken a look into the new training ground, including details on the category of the academy, the facility, and the commercials.


The Academy

In 2012 after some poor performances in the World and European Cups by the national team, there was a big shake-up in the academy system to improve the quality and quantity of homegrown players. This shake-up was called the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), and Carlisle fans may have heard this phrase banded about during the Dean Henderson transfer in the summer of 2023. This is what Nigel Clibbens said about that transfer "Dean Henderson – that [deal] was done before EPPP, and that was done in anticipation of what EPPP would look like, so there’s a small percentage there."


Football club academies are categorised into numbers 1 - 4, with the teams who are categorised as number one being elite, and the highest status. The clubs are assessed based on different criteria, like; productivity rates, training facilities, coaching, education and welfare provisions.


Carlisle United currently have a category 3 academy. After the u-18s defeat in the youth FA cup, to Barnsley Simmo had this to say; “There were two League One sides, and yes they’re a Category 2 academy [Carlisle are Category 3] but the gulf was enormous. Simmo said that the academy needed a "shake up". You can read the full News and Star article here.


So the main question is, what category of academy should the club aim for when planning the new training ground? Out of the category one clubs, there are only two in League One, Reading and Derby County. Interestingly enough, Derby gained category one status in 2014 when Simmo was there as Steve McLaren's assistant, so he has experience with the system and how it works.


I think it is unfeasible to get a category one status at this stage, due to the cost of building and maintaining such a facility. I would suggest that when designing the new training ground, future development should be considered so that if we decide in 5 years we want to go for Cat 1, the infrastructure can be added to, rather than rebuilt.


The question is do we stick with Cat 3 with better facilities once the training ground is built, or do we go for a Cat 2? The team with a Cat 2 academy who are in a similar position to us are Fleetwood Town. They got promoted to a Cat 2 in the summer of 2023 after they added an air dome to their fairly new training facility at Poolfoot Farm.


Category Two Academy Teams are listed below. They all play in a league called the Professional Development League, split between north and south.



They're the kind of teams we should be striving to be around. Let's hope we are pushing for a Cat 2 facility. But, what does a Cat 2 facility need?


The Facility

If we use Fleetwood as an example, we would need:



  • 2 x match standard elite 11-a-side grass pitches for the women's and academy teams to play on

  • 2 x 11 a side FIFA 2 Star Standard 4G

  • 3 x 11 a side grass pitches

  • 4 x 4g 5-a-side pitches

  • 1 x 4g 7-a-side with an air dome

  • 1 x grass 5-a-side pitch

  • 2 x grass 7-a-side pitch

  • A clubhouse with multiple changing rooms, physio rooms, video analysis rooms, offices, a gym, a bar/cafe and a restaurant

  • Adequate parking facilities


This would tie into the 20 acres which Simmo has quoted in the media at some point. Also, something which would be more specific to Carlisle United would be accessed from the motorway and/or A69. With some players travelling across from the NE or up from the NW, a site like Kingmoor would be ideal.


All of the above would mean a significant improvement to the estate of the football club. But, it will come at a significant cost. When Fleetwood started to build their facility in around 2014/2015, it was at a reported cost of circa £8 million, taking into account the addition of the air dome (reported at 7 figures) and inflation, we're looking at round numbers £10 million to build the facility (not including acquisition and leasing/purchasing of land costs). That is a serious outlay of cash and is not necessarily an asset which will reap instant rewards (like signing a striker who scores loads of goals and keeps you up). There is some money to be made which will soften the blow.


The Commercials

There are numerous opportunities to make some money from the state-of-the-art facility, these include:


  • Pitch Hire

  • Restaurant/Cafe sales

  • John Halpin Summer Soccer School (remember them?)

  • Kids birthday parties

  • 1-2-1 Training

  • Selling Club Merchandise

  • School Partnerships

  • Kids football tournaments

  • Design the space so it is adaptable so it can be hired for other sports usage

  • Sponsorship

  • Advertising

  • Funding or grants from The National Lottery, FA, Football Foundation, local council etc


I'm sure the club will be exploring all avenues to assist with the revenue required to build a new training facility.


Summary

Having a new training facility will mean we will be able to attract better players, whether permanently or on loan. We will be able to retain our good players. We will be able to produce better players from our youth system. It will improve a winning culture within the club. The sustainability and success of any football club depend mostly on how good your players are and being able to make money should it be the right time to sell. Having a new training facility will improve every point listed above. For us, we cannot move forward as a football club in 2024 without a new training facility.


To the Piataks, please make this happen, and every Carlisle United supporter will owe you unconditional gratitude.








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