After Rovers shelved their training ground plans last week, reporter Rich Sharpe looks at what the road ahead could look like.


Steve Waggott has discussed throughout his time as chief executive that running three sites, Ewood Park and the two Brockhall training bases, was a costly process. The associated maintenance costs are substantial.

The facilities aren’t getting any younger, and while the foundations will last the test of time, the infrastructure inside is in constant need of updating.

The proposed amalgamation of two of the sites, and a sale of the other, was seen as a way of funding a new facility at a time when the football club is facing a financial crossroads.

Within the last three years there has been a six-figure spending on a 4G indoor pitch at the STC, largely used by the Academy, so to comply with Category One requirements.

There too has been the introduction of scouting and analysis suites, investment in technology alongside providing a base for the club's recruitment team.

In the 2019 off season there was the introduction of a recreation area for the players, previously used as a media room and gallery for watching parents. With that still required, an area next to the gym at the other end of the building was constructed.

Following promotion back to the Championship, there was a re-branding within all the corridors, while the first-team dressing room has also been recently upgraded.

So Rovers have continued to invest in the STC, it remains an excellent facility, even if some areas have been in need of some TLC, but while ever there is a constant want and need in terms of facilities, those come at a cost, one Rovers were seemingly looking to address by starting afresh with a new base.

With those plans shelved, a new alternative is needed.


The first issue was down to size. There was no getting away from the fact while the Academy site is bigger, it isn’t to the scale that would incorporate the first-team and do so to the same specification. Pitches would have been lost, while the car parking at the Academy site is already a bug bear of local residents.

And the Brockhall community have played a key role in the plans not getting the go-ahead. They, along with the local council, as well as supporters, had their opportunity to have a say on the plans during the week-long public consultation, and that feedback impacted in Rovers shelving the plans.

The action group felt the plans were focused on finance, not football, a standpoint the club denied based upon their stance that the new facility would be funded by the STC sale, and likely require top-ups as well.

The other concerns highlighted by the action group centred on the current infrastructure being insufficient to deal with 170 new homes, as well as highways issues, and a lack of perceived co-operation from the club.

Chairman of the action group, Carl Allen, said: “Highways was the biggest obstacle, but we’d had some independent planning consultation done and it exposed multiple breaches of planning policy for them to do what they were proposing.

“There was a major backlash from their own supporters, particularly around feelings that they were selling off the legacy of Jack Walker, and then there was ourselves, as residents of the village and surrounding parishes, we were firmly against this."

Another issue Rovers faced too was that suspicion arose from the moment the plans became public on the Ribble Valley Borough Council website, with Rovers’ statement the next day seen as reactionary. The club apologised for that, and while it was out of their control, it was something they struggled to overcome.  

Because of that, and the early stages of the planning process that the project was at, a lack of detail around the new training facility and how it would look, against the seeming focus on the housing aspect of the plans, brought further scepticism.

It is worth adding there was some support from within the fanbase, believing a one-size-fits-all training base would have its benefits, referencing similar projects at other clubs as a blueprint moving forward, and acknowledging the need to constantly improve.

However, with the plans pulled before the planning application stage, there was no illustration of how things were really mapped out for the proposed facility, how it would work, or look, and overcome the issues outlined. That meant fans had to make up their minds based upon the scant details that were available.

Rovers were gifted two fine training bases because of the foresight of Jack Walker, and there was an unease among supporters about raising one of those to the ground, while the historic use of the land identified for employment purposes was another barrier the club faced.

So while a state-of-the-art, all-in-one, training base, a home for their first-team and an Academy which continues to be a shining light, seems like a sound idea, in reality, there would have been a host of issues to overcome.


So what do Rovers do now? The statement released on Friday suggests it won’t be the last we hear of plans surrounding the training ground(s). They will undoubtedly have a number of options already in mind, which they will now work through before deciding their next steps.

There has clearly been work ongoing behind the scenes on the project, even in the hours prior to the announcement, and with planning agents and a PR firm brought in, it seems unlikely this story will drift off into the sunset.

And just because the previous plans have been shelved won’t mean that a sale of the Senior Training Centre, the Academy base, or possibly even both, is off the table. That would then see the requirement of another site, leading to thoughts of possibly one closer to their Ewood Park base.  

Other options would be to upgrade the current facilities to the level the club felt the proposed training complex would reach, but that would require funding at a time when Rovers’ finances are under careful scrutiny of the EFL’s Profit and Sustainability rules.

And as much as Rovers have played down the decision being for financial reasons, that still doesn’t get away from the fact that they are in a constant cycle of spending money with very little coming in.

There had been talk in the summer of 2019 of the first-team moving to the Academy base, not least for the extra privacy that would bring, but to do so, would require a level of spending, and far from simply a switching of sites.

A sponsorship of the training ground would raise funds, but nowhere close to the level required.

It is a scenario that brings many issues and problems, with fewer solutions, not least ones that will please everyone.

Balancing the requirements of a first-team and Academy training base, against the legacy of Jack Walker, the wellbeing of local residents, and the financial aspect is a mix that doesn’t sit easily.

It was one the previous plans couldn't address, and any future plans will have to find solutions, as well as come under intense scrutiny.