Take a look behind the scenes at the Academy of Light.
The world-class Academy of Light opened its doors in 2003 and is one of football’s best training and development facilities.
The Academy is a far cry from the club’s former training ground, the Charlie Hurley Centre, which was made up of temporary buildings including a dilapidated cricket pavilion.
All the buildings have now been removed and the existing pavilion has been demolished, though the club has retained the pitches.
The Academy of Light offers a state-of-the-art training base for the club’s professional players as well as their Academy counterparts aged from eight up to 18.
It boasts an extensive array of facilities including a hydrotherapy suite, top-class medical facilities, a restaurant and up to 18 pitches.
A new state-of-the-art artificial pitch is currently under construction as well as an indoor training barn to comply with the new EPPP rules.
The low-profile buildings are deceptive – the lower floor is below ground level and packs in more than can be imagined from the outside!
Why is the Academy important?
The Academy of Light is key to Sunderland’s future development and is one of the reasons why the club’s youth facilities were given the highest possible category rating by the EPPP inspectors during the latest review of the country’s youth football system.
The Academy provides the best possible training and treatment facilities for the first team, giving them every possible competitive advantage.
In the longer-term, home-grown talent is vital and a number of facilities are a statutory requirement for Academy status.
These including a specific number of grass pitches per age group, an indoor training facility and artificial pitch, medical and examination areas, study areas and much more.
Academy status is vital for two key reasons – to attract the most talented young players and to enable entry into the FA Premier Academy League.
Membership of the FAPAL enables Sunderland’s players to face the very best opponents and the country’s elite teams, which is of great benefit to their development.
The club currently uses indoor facilities at the former Crowtree Ice Rink in Sunderland, but these will be superseded when the Academy’s new on-site facility opens in late 2012.
Facilities at the Academy of Light
The Academy of Light is a very private place and few people ever get a glimpse into the inner sanctum. Here’s a brief insight into the extensive facilities.
The main building is split across two levels and is complemented by the new indoor facility near the entrance to the site.
The top level includes:
- Reception area;
- Media lounge, including a television studio and working press area;
- Academy library, games room and classrooms for the under-18 players;
- Open-plan office space for coaching and administration staff;
- A full refectory serving a wide range of food.
The lower level is where the players can usually be found and features:
- Players’ entrance and dressing rooms for senior, reserve and Academy players;
- Fully-featured gym and weights room with the latest equipment;
- Hydrotherapy area including swimming pool;
- Treatment area with doctors’ rooms and physiotherapy areas for players at all levels;
- Indoor warm-up room with artificial turf.
The site has room for between 12 and 18 pitches, depending on the sizes they are marked out to. One of those pitches is an exact replica of the playing surface at the Stadium of Light.
The Academy of Light wasn’t designed with just the needs of the players in mind – it’s also environmentally sound. Click here to find out more.