The woman in charge of FA's £100m national football centre has plenty of goals
THE top job at the FA's new £100m national football centre, near Burton, has gone to a women who lives just four miles down the road.
Julie Harrington, from Tutbury, who cut her teeth managing Uttoxeter Racecourse and has lived locally for 10 years, started the job this month.
Her new base, the 330-acre St George's Park site, at Rangemore, is due to open this summer.
It includes 11 football pitches, including three community pitches, two hotels and state-of-the-art medical and training facilities.
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It will be a training base for all 24 of England's national teams – male, female and disability squads – and the FA's educational arm, FA Learning, with national coach education, development and sports medicine at its heart.
Julie, 42, who has worked in male-dominated industries all her life, said: "I am really excited about the challenge.
"I was shown around St George's Park by its chairman David Sheepshanks in my previous role in horse racing and I was wowed by it. Before I saw the job advertised in The Times, I knew I had to get involved.
"The facility is truly inspirational and a fantastic asset to the FA, football as a whole and the region.
"The opportunity to be part of the future development of our national game is a challenge I relish and feel privileged to be given.
"St George's Park gives the England football teams a home and that is very important. Just as Derby fans view Pride Park as their home, it is important for England's teams to have that, too.
"It will also allow the England manager to see youth players in action and become involved, not just with the senior teams, but with footballers at every level.
"Imagine how an under-17s player would feel to get encouragement from the England manager on one of our training pitches."
The England manager, currently Stuart Pearce in a caretaker role, will have an office at St George's Park and will spend time there, as well as at Wembley.
Pearce manages England's under-21 team, the Great Britain Olympic football team and has been shepherding the senior side since the departure of Fabio Capello.
Julie said: "I had a cup of tea with Stuart Pearce last week and he has been so welcoming – in fact I can't describe how welcoming everyone has been at the FA.
"It's my job to ensure Stuart has everything he needs, effortlessly in place, to enable him to do his job well."
Though football is its key focus, the centre will provide a major boost to the area in terms of jobs and tourism.
"It will create 250 full-time jobs in the hotels, medical and football facilities," said Julie. "It will also boost tourism. I am looking to employ a tour guide at St George's and work with tourism and business partners in the region.
"We've just heard that UEFA has awarded the women's under-17s tournament to England in 2014 and the hub will be at St George's Park. A similar tournament in the north-east in 2005 attracted 120,000 visitors."
For Julie, her new job is a dream come true. Though horse racing has dominated her career – she has left a role as operations director of Northern Racing, where she delivered a business plan for ten racecourses – football is her first love.
"I originate from Man-chester and, as a girl, my dad took me to watch Bury. I am a Manchester United fan but I also go to see Derby County. I act as a carer for a huge Rams fan from my village."
Her local links – "I only live four miles away and could cycle to work" – are proving valuable to the 30 FA staff members relocating from Wembley to St George's Park. "They are very excited about coming here," said Julie.
"For some, moving north means they will have an opportunity to get onto the housing ladder.
"I took them out in Derby last week to show them what the city had to offer."
As well as providing facilities for the England teams, St George's Park will welcome football teams from the UK and abroad who need a place to stay when playing locally. And it is not exclusively for footballers.
"For example, coming from the world of racing, I know no one has more injuries than jockeys and they can make use of the medical facilities and hydrotherapy pools at St George's Park, as can other sports.
"The ethos of St George's is all about inclusivity. There won't be a big gatehouse at the entrance. The community will be able to make use of the facilities. Burton Albion train there now and we intend to welcome school and club tours and develop community links."