The Football Association is implementing the latest networking and video technology at its coaching and education...
The St George's Park centre, which is under construction, will become the FA's second major centre alongside Wembley, where operations are currently centred. In total the FA has 60 sites with 1,800 IT users and 74 IT staff. Over half of the football leagues in England use the FA's league administration applications.
St George's Park is a £100m development in Burton-upon-Trent. It will become the centre of coaching and education for English football. It will use the latest technologies to train and monitor football players as well as athletes from other sports.
The centre will cover 330 acres with 12 football pitches surrounded by video technology. It will be the base for England's football teams and coaching and development teams.
The network that underpins the centre is critical due to the nature of some of the major applications, which combine video and analytics to support coaching.
The FA chose BT as its communications supplier. "One of the reasons we chose BT was because it has the networking backbone that will allow us to connect Wembley and St George's Park as one virtual suite," said Rob Ray, FA group director of digital and IT.
The high-speed BTiNet network will support applications with extensive use of video to monitor and record the performance of athletes. Video will also be used in training people to become accredited coaches. Video will be connected to the fibre network, which will require high bandwidth.
Final decisions on specific technology have not been made because planning is still being done. The network is likely to be underpinned by Cisco networking technology because the FA is a happy existing users
As well as the high bandwidth network, there needs to be a large storage capability. Although the FA already has two datacentres with 300 servers - including over 200 already virtualised - it is adding a 50 terabyte capability with the new development.
Ray says the new datacentre will make better use of technologies such as virtualisation.
The St George's Park network will be shared between the centre and a 228-bedroom Hilton hotel.
The project is in the design phase and Ray says the FA is considering how it could use the cloud and offshore software development services. Because the FA owns its own premises, Ray wants services delivered from a private cloud when the network links up all operations.
Ray says the FA is considering offshoring application development. He says this is about resource flexibility and not cost savings, because it could allow the FA to step up its resources for a project without having to change the structure of its core team.