It's been a turbulent time of late at Everton Football Club. The historic Merseyside side is one of the few teams to have never been relegated from the Premier League since its inception in the 1992-93 season; however, in 2023, they are arguably in more danger of going down than ever before. Behind the scenes, upheaval has been a constant, as managers come and go, while many fans are calling for the club's board to be sacked.
So what's the solution? Well, it's clear that the issues at Everton run far beyond the first team. That being said, there's one key area where most of the work required to take the club back to the top is going to take place… and that's the training ground.
In this article, we'll be offering some insight into what the Everton training ground looks like, the facilities on offer, and how staff at the club are attempting to use the training centre to boost performances at the first team's home ground of Goodison Park. We'll also detail any changes that have been made to the site in recent years, as well as digging into any plans for the future. But let's start with the name of the Everton Training Ground…
In honour of the nickname given to Everton Football Club by supporters, the Everton training ground, which houses both the men's and women's teams, is sometimes referred to as the School of Science. However, that's not its official name. Since its opening on 9th October 2007, the Everton training centre has been referred to as Finch Farm. The name comes from the farm situated just down the road, and to reinforce that grounding in the local area, the majority of the food served to players and staff at the training ground is sourced from this very farm.
Finch Farm is just outside the city of Liverpool where both Everton and their Merseyside neighbours at Anfield compete. Situated in Haleswood, in the Merseyside Borough of Knowsley, the site is around 9 miles away from Goodison Park (and about 10 from the Bramley Moore Dock site where Everton plan to build their brand new stadium), and just 5 minutes away from Liverpool airport.
The club's old training ground wasn't far from Liverpool city centre, at a place called Bellefield in West Derby Village. Having trained there since 1946, the team made the move out to the more spacious Finch Farm in 2007, after which the Bellefield site was redeveloped into housing. After a long history of housing first team operations, Bellefield was eventually deemed inadequate, and given that all it used to have was three pitches, two changing rooms, and a gym/physio room, that's hardly surprising.
As focus has been shifted to Everton's huge ongoing project of building a world-class new stadium at the Bramley Moore Dock site, thoughts of improving the training ground have taken a back seat. And given how recently Finch Farm was built (as mentioned previously, it opened in 2007), it's understandable that not a lot of work has been completed there in recent years.
That being said, it was announced by Liverpool City Council in July 2016 that £4 million would be spent on improvements to the training centre; immediately, there was backlash due to the vagueness of the plans, and the fact that this was taxpayer's money being spent. And those who were suspicious have arguably been proven right — following a Freedom of Information request, documents were released that revealed the proposed new academy building (called 'Tarmacademy') was dropped as a project in 2016. One thing that has got over the line is a brand new indoor training pitch, laid in 2018 in order to comply with the FA's new Elite Player Performance Plan, and described by chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale as part of "three phases of the planned improvements to Finch Farm."
Other funds have been invested into the Academy since 2019 in a bid to boost the number of quality players being produced by the club's youth system, but in terms of building facilities, not much has changed in recent years. When Roberto Martinez was in charge of the club, he did attempt to convert a section of the training centre's main building into overnight accommodation, so that in the aftermath of the first team's European fixtures, they could fly into Liverpool Airport and then sleep at the ground overnight, before beginning with a warm down in the morning. However, these plans were scrapped when boss Ronald Koeman came in, which is perhaps a sign of the upheaval and lack of sustained thinking at the football club in recent years…
A large facility that houses a range of state-of-the-art features, Everton's Finch Farm Training Ground was a major construction project that took some time and effort. Today, it remains one of the biggest and most well-equipped facilities in England. In this section of our training ground guide, we'll provide a little more detail on the facilities, size and dimensions of the place.
The training ground at Finch Farm takes up roughly 55 acres, which means that while it doesn't quite compete with whoppers like Arsenal's 140-acre London Colney site, it's certainly still bigger than most training centres. And building it wasn't exactly a walk in the park. After the land was initially acquired by the club for £2.1 million, the construction project, led by John Turner Construction Group, cost around £6.4 million. It's not cheap building Premier League standard infrastructure!
Finch Farm features 10 full-size grass pitches on three plateaus. There are also 3 smaller junior pitches, and a half-size pitch built for goalkeeper training. The grass pitch furthest from the main building has undersoil heating, and is purpose-built to measure up to the exact dimensions of the pitch at Goodison Park. There's also a synthetic turf pitch that's suitable for all types of weather. As for the Under 16s and Under 18s field, this "show pitch" has spectator seating comprising of two covered tiered terraces that can hold 102 and 153 seated spectators. There are six LED floodlights surrounding the pitch, as well as a camera viewing tower for watching and recording games. Although, despite these excellent youth team facilities, it's important to note that Finch Farm operates under the principle that in order to get access to luxuries, you've got to earn it. That means that in the main building, the youth teams and Academy have relatively basic facilities compared with the first team, to generate a level of aspiration and desire to follow in the footsteps of Academy graduates like Wayne Rooney and Leon Osman and reach the top level.
The main first team building overlooks the training pitches and contains a player's relaxation lounge, offices, a boardroom, various treatment rooms and changing rooms, a tactics theatre with cinema style seating, a plunge pool, and plant rooms (a nice touch which you don't see too often in the sphere of football). Meanwhile, the training centre's High Performance gym includes all your typical weight training and cardiovascular exercise equipment, as well as a bike area. In addition to the gym, there's also a spa, a sauna, hydrotherapy pools for player recovery and rehabilitation, physiotherapy rooms, a media centre and video lounges that house a video editing suite (the kind of facility that could be used by an in-house football analyst).
Up on the first floor, there's a light glazed screened corridor packed with offices for the CEO, Director of Football, Club Secretary, Head of Medicine, first team management, analysts, coaches, scouts and the team psychologist. With a large open plan relaxation lounge at the end of the corridor, linked to the main dining area, it's clear that the staff and player's everyday needs have been thought of extensively.
This set of quality features is part of what contributes to Finch Farm's impressive valuation: after Hudson Capital Properties put the site for sale in 2011, Liverpool City Council ended up paying £12.9 million for the ground.
You might have picked up from that extensive list of state-of-the-art features that Finch Farm is one of the best grounds in the country. It's got excellent gym facilities and equipment for player rehabilitation, as well as tons of space for club staff to plot, discuss, and analyse the first team's every move. Not to mention the ten full-size pitches, including the one that's measured up to be the same turf as Goodison Park.
That being said, the Everton training ground, while one of the best in the country (and certainly a cut above the Premier League's training grounds in transition, sites like West Ham's Rush Green and Brentford's Jersey Road site), isn't quite at the same level as some of the training grounds that have been built or seriously renovated in just the last few years. Probably the best example of this is the Leicester City Training Centre, a world-class facility that cost an estimated £100 million to build and opened only 2 years ago in December 2020.
Currently, Everton FC's sights are fixed firmly on the erection of a world-beating new stadium that will see them move out of their historic old ground Goodison Park, where they've played their football since 1892. Their future home, revealed in a recent video and reported to cost around £500 million, is set to have a capacity of over 52,000, and will sit by the water on Bramley-Moore Dock. This project is understandably taking priority.
And as it stands, Finch Farm still remains one of the most impressive training facilities in the United Kingdom. As time passes, its current features may start to need some upgrading and tweaking, but right now, it provides an excellent base for a team with big ambitions in the Premier League.
Interested in learning more about the various examples of behind-the-scenes infrastructure that contribute to the magic of the Premier League and other elite divisions across the world? Then our training ground guide series is the place for you — start off by taking a look at our explainer piece on the Rangers FC Training Centre.