Vincent Kompany's start to life at Burnley has been remarkable. Despite undergoing an intense transitional period in which a number of key first team players have departed and been replaced by younger professionals, the Lancashire club have shot to the top of the Championship table whilst playing a scintillating brand of possession-oriented football. With the Championship title now in the bag, they'll find themselves ding at the top table of the English game in the Premier League.
This promotion charge has been built on strong club-wide foundations. When competing in the Premier League under Kompany's permanent predecessor Sean Dyche, Burnley were able to consistently punch above their weight despite a relatively small budget. At the heart of this success was a commitment to a strong, clear coaching identity that translates from the training pitch to the Turf Moor grass. So how have they fostered this identity?
In this article, we'll be exploring exactly what it is that has allowed Burnley to rise as high as the Europa League in recent seasons, marking out a new period of success for a historic old club that have been playing at Turf Moor since 1883. We'll give you the name of the Burnley training ground, the history of the site, and the changes and developments that have taken place in recent years. We'll provide some detail about the facilities, size, and dimensions of the training centre, and we'll analyse how the site compares with other training grounds at a similar level.
In the post-war years, Burnley FC were one of the most dominant football teams in England. In a progressive period for the Clarets, they became one of the first clubs in the country to introduce a purpose-built training ground, at Gawthorpe Hall, near a National Trust site around 3 miles from Turf Moor. They're still on that site now, although the facility is a far cry from the fields that old club legends like Jimmy Adamson and Jimmy Mcllroy used to train on back in the day.
Another thing that's changed over time is the name of the Burnley training ground. Rather than being officially titled Gawthorpe Hall, as it was before, the redeveloped coaching site was opened in 2017 as the Barnfield Training Centre, after construction company Barnfield were given naming rights for the refurbished training ground. However, after Barnfield Construction were given the sponsorship rights for Turf Moor's Cricket Field Stand at the start of the 2021-22 season, this new deal superseded the training ground naming contract, meaning that most people are now back to referring to Burnley's training ground as Gawthorpe Hall. Still with us? Great. Now let's look into some of the key additions and tweaks that have taken place at the site during the last few years.
Where do we start? The Burnley training ground has been redeveloped in various different ways, with the first team moving into a temporary site for a long period while construction was underway. After a 5-6 year planning process and a 14-15 month construction project, Burnley finally got the keys for the new building in March 2017, gaining access to a seriously improved site.
Previously at Gawthorpe Hall, the pitches were prone to flooding when the adjacent River Calder rose, and there were a number of deficiencies: for example, the media had to use an old groundsman's bungalow, and the dressing rooms were built for a time when top-level football clubs had much smaller squads than they do today, so things were crowded.
The improvements, funded by net profits made from clever transfer dealings by the club in recent years, have shifted Burnley's Academy facilities from Category 3 to Category 2 status, while the first team have also benefited from a number of changes. One key development is that for the first time, every men's team is housed under one roof, something which Under-18s coach Danny Cadamarteri has been vocal about.
"The facilities are amazing," the former Everton striker told the Lancashire Telegraph. "The support structure that the club have put in through the first team's success over the last few seasons is great, they've spent the money very wisely. There's no better environment for young hopeful footballers to apply their trade and strive in the same building as first team players." This is an important consideration - at Barnfield, there is a clear sense of a pathway from the Under 9s all the way to the first team, a pathway backed up by the main building's architectural design. That leads us nicely to the next section of this training ground guide – let's spend some time discussing the facilities on offer at Barnfield in a little more detail.
Gawthorpe Hall Training Ground: Facilities, Size, and Dimensions
The Burnley training ground has shaped up to become a top level ground, a reality that's backed up by the recent improvement in Academy Category status, as well as on-field successes such as a six-year spell in the Premier League club that included qualification for the 2018-19 Europa League. And when you look at some of the features on offer at Gawthorpe Hall, that ability to compete with the greatest sides in the land, the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United, is less surprising. Here are a few of the most important facilities available to players at the Burnley training ground.
When you walk into the main entrance at Gawthorpe Hall, you're welcomed into a smart, bright open plan reception area. Downstairs, it's a functional building, a primarily operational area, while upstairs things are a little more comfortable; you've got administration blocks, an Academy block with a parent's lounge, a smartly-fitted boardroom, plus a plush, comfortable players' lounge where Burnley's stars can eat, relax, and kick back after a hard training session. It's an area that's designed to shift away from the Burnley-centred work environment that dominates proceedings elsewhere.
But onto those work spaces - the Gawthorpe Hall site features a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy and gym area with a hot plunge pool, cold plunge pool, and hydrotherapy/treadmill area, plus a huge Premier League-class first team dressing room, and a light, spacious gym area containing all the high-techn equipment you'd expect from a top-flight club.
Outside, there's an undersoil-heated Desso Grassmaster pitch, plus two more full-sized pitches beyond it, and another two three-quarter size pitches as well. The surrounding wetlands were maintained, as part of the planning permission for the site, to ensure that local wildlife is looked after, but that didn't stop new technology being introduced to the centre - one important feature is a new 60x40m indoor all-weather Academy pitch that meets the criteria for Category 2. It's got a Desso rubber crumb artificial surface, with a viewing platform above for parents and staff to watch the academy teams strut their stuff from.
In total, it's reported that this project, with its top-of-the-range pitches, changing rooms, medical and rehab facilities, gym space and relaxation areas, cost a whopping £10.6m to build. Delivered by Barnfield Construction Limited (hence the original name), the training complex covers a 73,000 sqm area (around 18 acres), with this site allowing the first team, development squad, and youth team players to all work under one roof for the first time ever. The pitches (which measure up at 68m x 105m each) were delivered by pitch contractor J Mallinson of Ormskirk, and on top of those full-sized pitches are four mini pitches and two three-quarter sized ones, used by younger players.
According to Stadium & Operations Manager Doug Metcalf, the ground is "a stunning new facility that we are immensely proud of and one that will enable the club to continue its future growth and development long into the future. This is the first time that all footballing departments have been accommodated under one roof, allowing our youngest Academy recruits through to our first team players the ability to train and develop in a high quality environment, suitable for modern day professional football."
In press comments made around the opening of the new facility, Metcalf went on to say: "Arguably, we've got one of the best facilities in the country. You can look at other clubs who will have invested a lot, lot more money than we have, but our end result, I think will still be the same as other top, top clubs, and we're competing there now."
Clearly then, the club officials involved in the building of the site are confident that it matches up to some of the most impressive facilities in the country. While its 18-acre site isn't quite as large as the grounds of huge training grounds like the Leicester City FC Training Centre, Gawthorpe Hall still has more than enough space for Burnley's players to hone their skills and do the necessary work on the training field each day. Without a doubt, it's been turned into a well-equipped Premier League level training ground, built to ensure that the club has a promising future.
Given how recently Gawthorpe Hall received a total regeneration, it's not surprising that as far as we know, there are no big plans for a shake-up at the Lancashire site. Yes, certain tweaks will undoubtedly be made, and as new managers like Vincent Kompany come in, there may be additions and features they want to add to finetune the culture and coaching set-up at Burnley. But for now, they've got a pretty impressive home.
At the time of writing, the club look set to regain their Premier League status at the first time of asking, and it's possible that they could do so with a record Championship points tally. Clearly, their revamped training ground is helping to play a part in that upward trajectory; however, they won't be the only club in the top flight next season with a state-of-the-art modern training ground to back up their on-field exploits.
Our series on Europe's greatest training grounds has seen us explore a wide range of different facilities that underline the technological advancements that have taken place in football over the past decade or two. For example, we've dived into the whopping 185-acre Leicester City FC Training Centre, which cost the club £100 million to build. And we've also explored the facilities on offer at Southampton's Staplewood Campus, a site on the edge of the New Forest that boasts impressive new features such as a forward-thinking hydrotherapy centre and a top-level sports science and medical unit. Head over to the Stadia & Operations page on our blog for a wide array of different guides to the training grounds used by the world's best football clubs.