Blog > Stadium & Training Ground Guides

Training Grounds: Thorp Arch, Leeds United

Training Grounds: Thorp Arch, Leeds United

The last few years have been an exciting (if a little turbulent) time for Leeds United fans. Promotion to the Premier League under former Argentine boss Marcelo Bielsa in 2020 ended a 16-year absence from the top flight and sparked huge celebrations across the city, and while it hasn't all been plain sailing since then, supporters have once again been able to enjoy watching their side face up against the best teams in the land, week in, week out.

The connection between club and fanbase has been strengthened during those seasons, although regardless of that, one aspect of Leeds United's daily operations that some supporters may not get too much of a glimpse into is the training ground routine. Every single day, top players such as Illan Meslier, Tyler Adams, and Patrick Bamford fine tune their football skills on the pitches at the Leeds United training ground, ensuring that they're up to scratch for the big match each weekend. So where exactly does this work happen?

In this article, we'll be giving you an in-depth guide to the training centre that Premier League side Leeds United use to complete their daily coaching. We'll tell you the name of the Leeds United training ground and we'll provide plenty of details about the size of the site and the facilities on offer. We'll also look at the improvements that have been made to the facility in recent years, ultimately explaining where on the scale it sits when compared with the training grounds at other elite clubs.

What is the name of the Leeds United training ground?

Located around 17 miles from the Whites' home ground Elland Road (about a half an hour drive), the Leeds training ground is on the outskirts of the village of Thorp Arch, near the small town of Wetherby - it is for this reason that Leeds United training ground is known as Thorp Arch. In this quiet corner of the West Yorkshire countryside, the club has found a sizeable patch of land that suits their everyday coaching requirements.

The man responsible for moving the club's daily operations out to Thorp Arch was Howard Wilkinson, who became manager of the first team in 1988 and soon decided that a purpose-built modern training facility was needed. Back then, the club were training at Fullerton Park, a small area behind Elland Road's West Stand. With just two mediocre pitches available here, a move was needed, and before Wilkinson departed in 1996, he ensured the switch was completed.

Once the countryside land was acquired, several pitches were laid out at the Thorp Arch site, and further building work began to install permanent changing rooms, offices, and academy player accomodation, with the main site completed in 1994. Since then, some improvements have been made, which we'll touch on shortly.

The Leeds training centre is one of many UK training grounds named after the geographical location it is situated within - other examples include Chelsea's Cobham Training Centre, named after the village of Cobham, and Everton's Finch Farm Training Ground, situated just down the road from, you guessed it, Finch Farm. As such, the Leeds United training ground is referred to as Thorp Arch, after the nearby village.

How has the Leeds United training ground changed in recent years?

Since Howard Wilkinson's reign during the late 1980s and 1990s, things have changed a fair bit. In order to align with Leeds' ambitions as a club, a variety of improvements and modernisations have been implemented. Here, we'll spend some time walking you through a few key ones.

The construction of the brand-new First Team pitch 7 is one of the biggest recent developments at the Leeds United training ground. At the end of the 2020-21 season that saw Leeds return to the top flight, a key priority was gutting and relaying the main pitch at their training ground. The spec of the new hybrid pitch is impressive; it has undersoil heating, 125mm of gravel to drain water, and a hybrid turf consisting of stitched synthetic fibres that combine with organic grass to provide ideal playing conditions. Crucially, this all seasons-playable pitch is built to match the turf at Elland Road.

However, this isn't the only change that has occurred at Thorp Arch in recent years. Let's rewind to 2000 for a second — at the turn of the century, work commenced on a large facility called the Barn, which cost £5 million and was built to house training equipment, an indoor pitch, a reception area, numerous changing rooms, and more. It was opened in 2002 and replaced The Grange, which previously housed the changing rooms, offices, and accommodation for academy players. On top of this main building, which has seen major refurbishment in the years since, there are also, of course, the training pitches (more on them later).

More recently, certain managers have implemented their own ideas at the Yorkshire site. In 2013, former manager Brian McDermott made several changes, including ensuring that the main training field measures up to the exact dimensions of Elland Road (a measure that's still in place today). He also upgraded the sprinkler system and moved the physio room, amongst other things.

Thorp Arch: Facilities, Size, and Dimensions

There's a reason Leeds United chose to move out of their old Elland Road-adjacent spot and out into the countryside - their new home is a lot bigger. In total, it's 12.1 hectares, which equates to around 30 acres. This site is divided into the outdoor training pitches area, and The Barn, which is the main indoor location for first team and academy proceedings. Significant funds have been invested into the site, with £5m alone being pumped into The Barn, which opened in 2002.

At Thorp Arch, there are eight grass pitches, and two SIS hybrid areas (one of which is the grass-synthetic hybrid Pitch 7, with the other being the goalkeepers' warm up area). The indoor pitch, which is heated and features artificial turf, is used mainly by the club's academy players. Other indoor facilities at Thorp Arch include two physiotherapy rooms (one for the first team and one for the academy), a bio science room for player medicals, science testing, muscular evaluations and preventative screenings, as well as a rehabilitation room purpose-built for players recovering from injury. Here, there's a sprung floor for jumping work, and equipment for activities such as basketball that can be used to help build up their strength and conditioning. There's also a gym that's used regularly for player fitness purposes, as well as during courses of rehabilitation.

It's worth mentioning the site's wet area, too - this zone features a massage jacuzzi, a hydrotherapy pool, and a swimming pool that's used for player rehabilitation and recuperation. The Barn also contains a reception, a cafe, a number of offices, and changing rooms for players and staff. Essentially, it's got all the basics required to allow a Premier League team to get ready for the stern tests they face each weekend.

How does the Leeds United training ground compare to other training centres at the same level?

In terms of size, the Leeds United training centre isn't quite as big as some other Premier League coaching sites. For example, Arsenal's London Colney facility is around 143 acres, making it easily one of the biggest in the league. Leeds' site is at the lower end of the spectrum, size-wise, anyway; however, it certainly doesn't lack state-of-the-art features, and recent refurbishment work means that Thorp Arch can compete with plenty of other training grounds in the lower-mid reaches of the Premier League. Considering the fact that they're still establishing themselves as a consistent top-flight outfit (with another full-on relegation battle taking place during the 2022-23 season), it's fair to say most fans of the club should be pleased with the facilities that players are being offered right now. That being said, plans to improve the site have been discussed in recent times…

What are the plans for the future?

For a long time, Leeds United were preparing to move to a brand-new training ground with even more spanky facilities than their current Thorp Arch home. However, a relatively recent announcement revealed a serious change in direction.

In June 2021, it was announced that the club had decided to scrap plans to build a new training facility close to Elland Road. Instead, the decision was made to focus on increasing the home stadium's capacity. This was despite the fact that Leeds City Council had supported the Whites' intention to move the training centre. A spot of land had even been targeted - the former Matthew Murray High School site, a large space just a five minute walk away from Elland Road that's been derelict since 2000.

The proposed new base was estimated to have cost around £25 million, a serious investment that the club instead decided to divert elsewhere. The priority now is a plan to increase Elland Road's capacity from 39,000 to 55,000.

According to former Leeds midfielder Danny Mills, “There are parts of the stadium that certainly need updating, I think everybody is fully aware of that. Taking it up to 55,000, I have no doubts that it will sell out. You still have to be careful because it’s still just one season in the Premier League. You need to make sure you stay there." That certainly remains the aim for the club, whatever their training ground situation is.

Want to find out more about the training centres used by the highest-performing clubs in the United Kingdom? Take a look at our guide to the Rangers Training Centre for a sneak peek into the coaching facilities on offer to pro players at the Glasgow giants.