In light of recent public commentary, we have offered an update on our plans for a national training centre which will create a second home for Northern Ireland football to complement the excellent match venue at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.
The intention is to create a bespoke high-quality facility with a dedicated ‘Northern Ireland identity’. Extensive research has already taken place to identify an appropriate site in a suitable location.
The Irish FA will make a significant investment into the facility and anticipates utilising capital funding from external sources, particularly those that are designed to support national associations in these types of strategic infrastructure projects.
Advanced discussions about potential locations remain ongoing with several landowners including Northern Ireland Executive departments, local councils, and private developers and we hope to make a planning application depending on the outcome of the site selection process. Given the scale and complexity of such a venture it is difficult at this stage to assign precise timeframes for completion, but all efforts will be exhausted to ensure that progress is expedited with the highest priority.
We also note comments made by David Healy after the senior men’s game against Kazakhstan. David is a significant footballing figure in Northern Ireland, and his record speaks for itself. Like everyone at the Irish FA, he wants the best for the football community here in Northern Ireland.
We have engaged directly with David in recent days to discuss those comments, which of course we acknowledge. We clarified with him that the JD Academy has been in existence since 2019 and has already produced three senior international footballers. In addition, the wider work of the Elite Player Pathway, in collaboration with our clubs, has led to over 60 players signing professional contracts in either England or Scotland.
Furthermore, we are about to launch a review into youth football which will revolutionise that level of the game in Northern Ireland. It will be a significant piece of work resulting in an active game that generates maximum enjoyment and technical development for every child.