ESSMA Training Centre Tour most informative in terms of shared knowledge and learning

By May 12, 2015
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The ESSMA tour of various football training centres was held over the 21st and 22nd April 2015 and was most informative in terms of shared knowledge and learning. Together with 21 participants from different clubs, leagues and Stadium Partners we experienced two interesting days while visiting 5 venues in 3 countries. 


Day 1 (April 21)

RSC Anderlecht Training Centre (Neerpede)

The first venue to start our tour was the training centre of RSC Anderlecht, a club full of Belgian and European tradition. The tour was hosted by Bert Van der Auwera (Marketing-Brand Manager / UEFA Liaison Officer). We were taken on a tour on the site where the staff was busy renovating the only heated pitch in order to get in ready for the winter period.

After this we went inside to explore the players’ facilities. When the players arrive in the centre, they need to register on iPad’s. They need to fill in a list of questions about their current form and diet. This information is transmitted to a computer screen in the fitness area and by this the physical trainers and mental coaches know in what shape the player is in, in order to take that into account during the practice sessions that day.

We also visited the restaurant area, swimming pool, dressing rooms, revalidation room and the impressive fitness & power area. In the revalidation room, Lorenzo Santoni from the Italian Lega Serie B/B Futura had the opportunity to test the newest gravity treadmill -which according to the RSC Anderlecht medical staff- has a very positive impact on the players’ revalidation.


Belgium National Football Centre

After Anderlecht we made a short trip to Tubize where we visited the Belgian Football Centre. This tour was lead by Frédéric Veraghaenne (Manager National Football Centre). Upon arrival and after a short welcome word we enjoyed a lunch in the “club room” which was designed with a Belgian atmosphere. This training centre is still under construction but will be finished in January 2016.

The centre includes 6 football fields (3 synthetic with 1 covered), an area for goalkeeper training, running lanes, 2 tennis courts, 2 mini-fields,.. These are rented out to clubs and friendly games for youth teams. On the grounds the Belgian FA is building a hotel with 60 rooms to accommodate players and guests, offices for technical staff, conference rooms, an auditorium and a restaurant for 180 people. We also visited the dressing rooms for the first team and youth teams area.


Lille Domaine de Luchain

We continued our tour and traveled to the training centre of LOSC Lille at Domain de Luchin (Camphin-en-Pévèle). This tour was hosted by Didier Declimmer (Directeur Général Adjoint Opérations) and Jérome Delplanque ( Maintenance responsible).

First we visited the beautiful outside area and the pitches. This domain of 43 hectares has a lot of greenery and beautiful landscaping. Entering the inside of the main building you can see a typical square farm, where they preserved the old building to a maximum. The club icon is well placed in the middle of the farm. Outdoors you have a natural grass and a synthetic pitch, a main pitch and a goalkeeper’s training pit -completely fenced- specially designed to train goalkeepers. A 3 km long Finnish jogging track surrounds the grounds to give players the opportunity to have alternative recovery training. The domain also houses a mountain-bike trail and a 4-lane race track - all is available to progress towards excellence.

The youth academy is accessible for players from the age of 15 to 18 years old. They are tutored individually or in a class of 2 or 3. LOSC Lille does not believe in big class rooms in order to ensure better individual development. The youth players can choose between different school topics to attend and classes are giving in the morning. In the afternoon they have training sessions. The only time they get to see their parents and go home is Wednesday afternoon. This academy is very strict, the players should stay on the site, as they also sleep in the academy.

Concerning accommodation, domaine Luchin offers each youth player a private room (26 of them with high quality accommodation) with personal bathroom. In addition to their room, young people can also relax in the TV room, reading room and even in one of the game rooms (foosball, darts, air hockey, video games,..). A teaching staff of about 30 people (sports psychologist, dedicated medical staff, teachers,..) is full time present for the (young) players. Equipped classrooms and study areas are all provided, truly essential for such individuals who are aiming for success.

A powerful engine for motivation is that the young players come in close contact with the professional players. The young players can also make use of the first-rate facilities here as well. Domaine de Luchin is more than ever aiming to form top players.

The headquarters of the club (1700 m2) holds all the club's administrative activities, so that staff evolves in direct contact with athletes and training sessions. Offices, meeting rooms, restaurant, amphitheatre for prestigious occasions, etc.: everything has been taken into consideration for working together in such a way to enable each and every one to advance and be efficient. Sport, medical and administrative staff, youth in training and service providers are all present.

A powerful engine for motivation is that the young players come in close contact with the professional players. The young players can also make use of the first-rate facilities here as well. Domaine de Luchin is more than ever aiming to form top players.

Very prominent is the mini stadium on the domain of about 700 m2 containing changing rooms, gym, sauna, recovery room and jacuzzi. This mini stadium will be used for public training sessions of the first team, youth teams’ games and as training facility.

Total project cost of the training grounds: € 20,000,000. One of the reasons of building the training centre here in this quiet area was the cheap price of the grounds.

After the visit in Lille we transferred to our Hotel in Lille where we stayed the night.


Day 2 (April 22)

Arsenal Training Ground

On our second day we started the tour at Arsenal’s training ground in London Colney. We were invited to visit the pitches. This tour was hosted by Sean O'Connor (Facilities Director) and Steve Braddock (Head Groundsman). This training ground houses ten full-size pitches, an indoor facility and a medical & rehabilitation centre. Constructed after manager Arsène Wenger campaigned for Arsenal to replace its existing  site, it opened in October 1999 at a cost of £10 million.

As well as accommodating Arsenal's first team and youth teams, the centre acted from 2003 to 2012 as the training base for the England national football team for home game internationals and friendlies. The centre became a pioneer for modern training centres in Europe and the world.

Steve and Sean explained about the training pitches and the renovation. The frequency of playing time on the pitches is very important: Arsenal never trains 2 days on the same pitch, just to make sure all pitches get a enough time to recover. The staff clearly stated they want to keep abreast of emerging technologies, so they are constantly looking for improvements. On the big pitch the club was working on a new Desso GrassMaster pitch where we could see the working and construction of this.

Quote Sean O’Connor: “You can have all the buildings you want but if the grass isn’t okay it’s not going to work. The pitch is the office. The grass wins the game.”


Tottenham Hotspur New Training Centre

Our last venue was the Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre where we enjoyed had a light lunch before the start of the site visit. After lunch, Tony Kavanagh (Head of Training Ground Operations) and Jon Babbs (Stadium Manager) hosted the delegation on the tour of the brand new training centre.

We started inside the centre to experience the Tottenham Youth Academy. Players from the age of 9 can attend the academy and have tutoring and training sessions during the week. Youth players can always see the other side of the centre where the first team is installed. The philosophy behind this is that they can see what they are working so hard for.

The main goal of Tottenham academy is to support and develop youth players as much as possible so they can make it to the first team. The state-of-the-art facility includes a covered artificial pitch, world-class player preparation areas, pool and hydrotherapy complex, altitude room, large-scale gymnasium and specialist sports rehabilitation suites. This will support the club's ambitions to attract, develop and retain the highest quality talent. The side of the first team is meant to be very ‘plain’ so players can concentrate on the work ahead. Before they come in the centre they need to register using fingerprint technology. There is a ‘no excuses’ philosophy in Tottenham: keycards can be forgotten, but by using this technology excuses are not possible. Everything in the centre is built with the players in mind. Even for signing shirts they have built an extra shelf to make it as simple as possible for the players to sign the shirts. The players need to be reminded every time they enter the centre that they are in a working area.

There are 15 grass pitches across the site including four dedicated solely for first team training and one and a half artificial outdoor pitches with floodlighting. Darren Baldwin (Head Groundsmanager) gave a presentation about the sites construction and philosophy prior to the outside pitch tour.



These 2 days were very inspiring for our participants and we hope to see you again next year! For more information about the tour, please contact the ESSMA staff . The aftermovie video will be published in the month of May.

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