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Chairman On Training Ground

27 July 2012

Robbie comments on recent reports.

U's chairman Robbie Cowling has issued the following statement, regarding the latest developments at the club's Florence Park training facility at Tiptree.

Following a couple of recent articles in the local newspapers, I thought it would be a good idea to respond with the facts.

Whenever the local papers print a story relating to any issues at the training ground, those stories centre around the complaints that are coming from just a few of the local residents, who were opposed to the facility in the first instance, and are unhappy that we are making any additional changes.

The newspapers typically refer to those who complain as the ‘Tiptree Residents’ in a way that makes it appear as if Tiptree as a whole is against the Florence Park training ground.

I know this is not the case because I have personally received lots of encouragement and praise from a very high number of people who live in Tiptree and many of those are living very close to the new training ground.

Like me, they believe that the facility is good for the village and, like me, they like to see a facility that gives young people an opportunity to better themselves and local young men the opportunity to experience playing football at a first class facility.

As a forward thinking person, I never understood why those restrictive hours of use were attached to the planning permission, but was assured that if things changed then so could the conditions if the request to change was reasonable.

At that time, we were using the Garrison facility and we were training on their pitches from 10am to 12:30pm and the facility was only available to us during the week.

When we originally applied for the training ground facility in Tiptree, we were asked to provide the hours that we were training.
Although we are still awaiting an audit from the independent auditors appointed by the Premier League, we have been successful in achieving Category 2 status for the coming 2012/13 Season.

For example, we have taken on an additional 15 full time staff just in the Youth Department and over £1.2m a year is now being spent on Youth Development.

This has required a major investment in terms of facilities and staff.

However, because Colchester United is a progressive football club, we have embraced the changes and have set our sights at obtaining the second highest status of EPPP Academy available to us (Cat 2 status).

The EPPP has also been adopted by the Football League and, as a member of that League, Colchester United have to comply with the EPPP or close down our youth department and make all of the young players and the staff member of the youth department redundant.

Also, as of this season, the Football Premier League have introduced a new grading system for youth departments known as their Elite Player Performance Program (EPPP) which classifies all youth academies from Cat 1 to Cat 4.

Gaining permission for the training facility in Tiptree and then building it has taken us 4 years and we now have a new manager who has different ideas on how many hours our players should be training.

Also, at the time of the original application, the status of our youth department had four full time members of staff and was classified by the Football League as a Centre of Excellence.

Achieving Category 2 status is a major achievement for the club and an enormous boost for the boys who play for our Academy teams.

They will now have a much better chance of making a career in football either as a player, because of the significantly better coaching, facilities and games programme they will be getting, or as a coach, because every scholar is put through the Level II coaching course. In fact one of the 15 new employees taken on this summer was a Scholar within our youth programme last year.

The changes described above have meant that our requirements for the training ground have changed and, in response to that, we have requested that 2 of the 33 conditions imposed upon the club are changed.

I am sure that there will be other the changes in the next 4 years and hopefully these will be generated by our success but whatever changes are imposed upon us the club will have to adapt.
Should those jobs and that potential be lost to allow a handful of people to impose an unreasonable restriction upon us?

Colchester United is now one of the biggest employers in Tiptree and on top of that we have 100s of young boys and men who are depending upon us to fulfill their potential.

I do not believe that Colchester United are asking for major changes that will have any real impact on those residents living close to the facility.

Does anyone seriously think that training at 2pm in the afternoon has any

greater impact than training at 1pm? The amount of use is going to self regulate anyway because the pitches cannot withstand too much use and the quality of those pitches are obviously precious to us.

I accept that just because I believe that training in the afternoon is OK does not make it so, and there are guidelines relating to noise levels to determine when and at what level those noises are considered a nuisance.

Therefore the club have paid for an independent expert to determine if the noise generated from a training session breaches those guidelines and it is my understanding that their report provides clear evidence that it does not.

Hopefully we can get this matter resolved and I am sure that in time even those few residents who do oppose our presence will start to realise that we are good neighbours with a vested interest in Tiptree.

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