Many football fans have been shocked by Fulham's impressive performances during the 2023-23 Premier League season. After winning the Championship at a canter last season, they've fired their way into a genuine battle for European qualification, against the odds. It's almost unheard of for a newly-promoted side to make such an impact, particularly within the Premier League era, and Marco Silva and his players have gained themselves plenty of admirers as a result.
So what is it that has allowed them to re-adjust so quickly to life in the top flight? Certainly, an extremely settled squad who have played lots of minutes together helps. Add in the fact that a number of these players have a great deal of experience playing in the Premier League, including Aleksandar Mitrovic, Bernd Leno, and Tim Ream, plus a further sprinkling of attacking quality from the likes of Willian and Andreas Pereira, and you've got a recipe for success. But another crucial aspect of Fulham's impressive recent performances is the site where they train each day. After all, the vast majority of preparation work is done here, so it's vital that the setting is perfect.
That's why this article will be diving deep into the Fulham training ground, giving you all the information you need about how it's been developed over the years to aid the team in achieving success on the pitch. We'll discuss the history and location of the site, exactly what facilities are on offer, and any redevelopment plans that currently exist in relation to the training centre. By the time we're finished, you should have a better idea of how this historic West London club has been able to compete right at the top of the English game.
Fulham FC's position relatively close to the centre of London has often been a major attraction to foreign players deciding to move to the Premier League. Who could resist the bright lights of the big city? However, to find the club's training ground, you have to head a little way out of the Whites' West London home.
The club's training ground is in New Malden, on the outskirts of South West London, around 7 miles from Craven Cottage (that's just over a half-hour drive from the stadium). Here, there's a little more room for maneuver, something that has caused other London clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal to move their training operations out into the countryside to sites such as Cobham and London Colney.
Fulham made the Surrey site their permanent home in 1999. Since then, players such as Marcus Bettinelli, Ryan and Steven Sessegnon, and Harvey Elliot have graduated from the Fulham academy and into the first team. The name of the centre where all these players have honed their skills? Motspur Park.
Motspur Park is named after the suburban locality it's situated in, which has been known for its sports grounds for many years. Originally named after the Mot family, who farmed the land way back in the 14th century, the current Fulham training ground site became a popular sports centre in the 20th century, when it was the University of London's athletics ground. Fulham FC then took over the site in 1999, and soon made it clear that it would not just be the first team players who trained at Motspur Park each day. The training centre is also the home of the club's Academy, as well as the Women's team, the Deaf team, and other local groups.
In a moment that highlighted Fulham's commitment to Academy operations, 2012 saw the club announce that their Academy had been awarded Category One status under the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP- a long-term strategy for developing more and improved home-grown players), a status it has retained every since. During the past decade, serious work has gone into maintaining the quality of the site and ensuring that the club continues to produce and finetune the types of players we mentioned in the previous section of this article (since 2011/12, 40 former Academy players have made their senior debuts).
In the 24 years since its grand opening, the site has developed into a state-of-the-art sporting facility that houses around 200 members of staff. While it's been redeveloped extensively, it retains an element of charm and character that harks back to its 1920s university sports ground origins. When the University acquired the site, they spent £18,000 on unspoilt countryside and levelling and drainage works to get the sports ground up to scratch. But in order to bring Motspur Park into the 21st century, a huge amount of additional work has been done by the club.
The summer 2016 redevelopment of Motspur Park Training Ground was a landmark event. Funded entirely by Chairman Shahid Khan, a wide range of improvements were made in line with EPPP stipulations, after an extensive build period. The project included replacing the previous indoor training facility with a 500-capacity spectator area, and creating a new 103-space car park that allowed more space for players, staff, and visitors. The redeveloped ground has better-irrigated pitches, and more space for off-field work, too — but we'll spend some time diving into the specific facilities on show at Motspur Park very shortly.
Before the redevelopments were underway, the club had floated the idea of leaving Motspur Park and heading to a larger site further afield, in Elmbridge or Kingswood. Instead, they've chosen to remain on the old site and expand the land, adding a second area just along the road that was formerly a BBC staff sports ground. This has allowed the club to revamp a site that they were concerned was not fully aiding their aim to compete at the top end of English football.
Motspur Park is now packed with all the state-of-the-art facilities you'd expect to see at any Premier League training centre. While the site isn't huge – it can hardly compete with whopping countryside locations such as the brand new Foxes training ground, the 185-acre Leicester City FC Training Centre – it has more than enough space for a top-level club.
In total, the size of Motspur Park is around 49 acres, comprised of the 28-acre former athletics ground and the more recently-acquired 21-acre former BBC site. That land expansion has allowed for some serious improvements in terms of the facilities on offer at the Fulham training ground; there are five irrigated pitches (one with under-pitch heating), two areas for goalkeeping work, plus three ancillary training areas. In the main building, there are dedicated gyms for fitness and rehabilitation, as well as a range of rooms for medical treatment and physiotherapy work.
A swimming pool, cryotherapy and hydrotherapy equipment, hot and cold pools, and a jacuzzi are all on offer, too - this was one of the primary targets of the recent site redevelopment. In addition, Motspur Park has rooms for coaching, scouting, video and match analysis, all essential features of modern football, as the influence of sports analytics and data continues to grow.
Outside, the ground's Arena Pitch pays tribute to Motspur Park's history by retaining a couple of old features of the site: the curved sweep of the former cinder track, and the old home straight that now accounts for the large divide between the stand and the near touchline. This Arena Pitch is used regularly for Under-23s fixtures, and its extended stand provides additional facilities such as a restaurant, a players' lounge, and medical facilities.
The First Team training pitches are fibre-sand based, with major works carried out each summer to maintain a top-quality playing surface. There's also an Astroturf area that allows players to train on an all-weather surface when the rain gets too heavy for them to use grass without damaging the turf.
The work that's gone into the Fulham training ground since the club's Academy acquired Category One status in 2012 has been impressive. In the last decade, redevelopments at Motspur Park have truly taken the centre into the 21st century, increasing the amount of space on offer and ultimately supporting the club's aim of matching up to other top-level professional clubs in everything they do.
According to Alistair Mackintosh, Chief Executive at Fulham Football Club, “It has taken a lot of hard work from many people to deliver on the master plan for the Motspur Park facility and they all deserve our thanks. However, the principal driver behind all of these improvements is our Chairman, Shahid Khan, whose commitment to the Football Club reaches far beyond First Team football, but into the very heart of what makes Fulham so special; its commitment to the past, the present and the future. It is an accomplishment everyone involved with the Club should be proud of.”
Academy Director Huw Jennings added: “Maintaining our Category One status has an immeasurable impact on the Fulham Academy and one that is vital to our future success. We boast many impressive accomplishments with player development at the Club over the seasons which would not have been possible without both financial support, but also the belief in our methods and values as an Academy, and these facilities and our Cat 1 status are integral to ensuring we continue to progress.”
The quality of the Motspur Park facility is also underlined by the fact that the site has been used for training sessions by a variety of international teams, including Brazil, Colombia, England, South Korea and Sweden. Often, these sessions take place ahead of international fixtures at Craven Cottage. In a city that has its fair share of top-class sporting venues, the fact that international teams are keen to use the facility is a testament to the work that's been put into it.
Following the acquisition of the former BBC sports ground, and the subsequent expansion of the site, Fulham FC are pretty much where they want to be in terms of their everyday training location. Certainly, the club hasn't announced any major plans for renovation in the near future.
The fact that their Academy and Women's team can fit into the Motspur Park site alongside first-team stars like Mitrovic and João Palhinha shows the future-minded planning that has gone into the site redevelopment. With the Academy at the core of Fulham's identity as a club, it will be crucial that Motspur Park continues to play an important role in helping young talent flourish.
Another Premier League club that has been able to compete with the country's richest and most decorated clubs, despite lacking the same resources, is Brentford. If you want to find out more about how their daily coaching operations have aided their charge for the big time, check out our guide to Jersey Road, the Brentford FC Training Ground.