Shropshire Football Association has unveiled plans to open a new football hub in Telford, in a ground-breaking partnership with the town’s college.
Officials say the Telford Football Hub, based at Telford College’s Haybridge campus, has the potential to become a mini version of the English FA’s celebrated centre of excellence, St Georges Park.
Under the new partnership, Shropshire FA will have a permanent Telford office for the first time, and the two organisations will work together to promote youth and adult football, as well as futsal, and the training and development of coaches and referees.
Dave Simpson, Shropshire FA’s chairman, said: “I’m very passionate about the town of Telford – I was born here. Over the years there has been such a decline in football, and we have to do something to turn that round.
“There is little or no investment in playing fields and football pitches in Telford, and as a result, we are really low down in the food chain when it comes to facilities.
“This partnership could bring something very special to the town. This opportunity to partner with Telford College is something we simply cannot afford to miss out on.”
Mick Murphy, Shropshire FA’s facilities manager, said the vision was to create a ‘mini St Georges Park’ at Telford College.
Facilities will include grass pitches at the entrance to the Wellington site, a second full-sized outdoor 3G pitch, an indoor half-sized 3G pitch in Telford College’s indoor sports dome, tailor-made indoor futsal facilities and a suite of associated classrooms.
“I can’t think of any other colleges or universities in the country which would have all of these facilities,” he said.
“We will be able to stage young leadership camps at the college on a more regular basis, working with 14 to 25-year-olds, and we are also looking to specialise around futsal.
“Shropshire currently provides some of the biggest number of futsal players throughout the country – which might surprise some people. We want to enhance that, and take it to student level, and through to the adult level as well.
“We’re also looking to make this into a disability centre of excellence and academy – and the same with refereeing.”
Graham Guest, Telford College’s principal and chief executive, said: “We have had a strong partnership with Shropshire FA for a number of years, hosting events like the People’s FA Cup qualifying rounds, and young leaders’ days.
“But this football hub plan takes things to the next level. Developing our facilities even more, though this partnership, gives greater opportunities for our students, and for the community, to develop the game we all love.”
Holly Davies, who chairs Shropshire FA’s youth council, said: “Having a hub at Telford College will mean masses to us.
“For us, Telford College is absolutely brilliant. It has got all the facilities we need – the 3G pitches, the dome, and the classrooms to be able to put on events which are massively important for what we do.”