Posted: Tue 9th Jul 2024

Wrexham AFC ‘to build new academy training facility at Darland School’ with five pitches, changing rooms and offices for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

Wrexham AFC and Darland High School say they are “delighted” to announce Heads of Terms have been signed for the building of a new Academy training facility at the school.

The news comes the day after local fan media RobRyanRed highlighted an issue with the club’s acemedy status

The Athletic followed up a day later, stating, “Wrexham’s application to become a Category Three academy has been rejected. An appeal is in but, for now, dozens of youngsters are in limbo due to Category Four academies only playing Under-17s and above.”

With the announcement today the club said, “The facility is a key development on the road to achieving Category Three academy status, with our application for the 2024/25 season currently pending.

“The agreement will see Wrexham AFC build five pitches of varying sizes for use by our Academy teams, from ages nine to 18. The facility will also include bespoke changing rooms, toilets, offices, analysis rooms, medical rooms, a gym, kitchen, meeting rooms and a classroom.”

“Discussions first started with Darland High School in November 2023, with a facility a key requirement for the Club’s ambition to step up to Category Three academy status. As outlined in our regular updates to parents, the final decision on the Club’s academy grading for 2024/25 is, following our successful PGAAC audit, pending the outcome of our search for a permanent facility. We have remained in communication with the relevant authorities and will update on the final outcome once the decision on our status for the coming season is made.

Wrexham AFC Academy Manager Andy Lowe said: “I am delighted to finally see the Academy facility project with Darland High School come to fruition. This is a significant milestone for our Academy at Wrexham AFC and is the accumulation of eight months of extremely hard work behind the scenes by numerous people.

“From my first meeting with head teacher Joanne Lee back in November 2023 to discuss the potential of Darland High as an academy training facility, it was evident we had a shared vision for the development of young people, both on and off the field, which will be vitally important to the success of the partnership moving forward.

“Darland High is in a fantastic location within the Wrexham area and allows us the opportunity to grow as an EFL licensed academy. The development of home-grown players is integral to the long-term sustainability of any football club and the announcement of this facility is a step in the right direction in ensuring we continue to develop Wrexham AFC players of the future.

“The Club were awarded an EFL Category Four license in July 2023 with a strategy to establish a safe to operate and compliant academy – highlighted by a very successful audit – and to endeavour to find a long- term training facility.

“In 12 months, we have achieved both and all involved should be extremely proud of their efforts. The Darland facility now provides us with a fantastic opportunity to support of our ongoing Category Three application and aspirations of becoming an EFL Category Three-Two Academy.

“Finally, it is extremely pleasing to see the significant investment the club are committing to this project, which will have a lasting impact on young people in the academy, school and local community for many years to come.”

Darland High School headteacher Joanne Lee said: “Darland is so much more than a school; we are embedded in a richly diverse community encompassing our local village and cluster primaries – Saint Peter’s, Rossett; Llay Park, Llay; All Saints’, Gresford; Holt Primary, Holt; and The Rofft, Marford; all of which will be included within
this partnership through their already strong links with Darland.

“Collectively known as the Darland Learning Community, we welcome Wrexham AFC to our family. I was particularly heartened with the connection between the values and standards held by Academy Manger Andy Lowe and those of the school.

“We are keen to develop a lasting legacy for the families of Darland students and Academy player alike. Both the school and the Academy set to benefit from the partnership as we develop strong community links and embrace the Academy into our Learning Community.

Andrew Clarkson, Deputy Headteacher added: “We are indebted to Andy Lowe, Wrexham AFC Academy Manager, for his time and dedication which has enabled the association to be established.” Wrexham AFC CEO Michael Williamson added: “The signing of Heads of Terms for the Darland High School facility is a big step forwards in our ambitions for the Wrexham AFC Academy and an important step on the road to category three. “The Academy is an integral part of the plans for the Club’s future, and gives us the opportunity to nurture some of the fantastic footballing talent in North Wales and the surrounding areas, as we build a sustainable Football Club for the future.

“We will be developing young athletes both on and off the pitch, helping to make them better people as well
as footballers.

“We appreciate and value the collaboration with local community partners like Darland High School as we
build to achieve these goals.”

The school also published the below statement on social media addressed to ‘residents’:

I am excited to make you aware that Darland High School are in talks with Wrexham AFC to develop an educational partnership – Wrexham AFC Academy. We are hopeful, subject to full council processes, that this will be the start of a long- term partnership with the football club and Darland High School.
This will involve many annual events and agreed join usage of our playing fields, a project that will not only benefit Darland pupils but also members of our extended School and community family.
At this stage we are in discussions about the use of the field at weekends and evenings during the summer months. We are also discussing significant investment in, and ongoing maintenance of, the school fields which will benefit Darland High School and our linked Primaries.
We are very aware that we are part of the Rossett community, an honour we very much wear with pride. The school and the club are mindful of the nature of such shared responsibilities and take them seriously. The planned collaboration is being planned such that it will not negatively impact the local community. The main activities will be the use of the canteen and community classroom, both within the school buildings and the school fields and car park. The timings will be during the evenings and weekends during the summer months, working alongside Freedom Leisure (who provide a venue for many groups through our leisure facilities).
This will mean increased traffic at weekends, which will be contained to the school carparks. Afternoon /evening traffic will be in the same vein as that used by Freedom Leisure. Freedom Leisure will still benefit from shared facilities at the school site. There will be plant equipment on the school fields during the summer break as the football club make improvements to the playing fields. This should have minimal impact on residents. Wrexham AFC are aware of the delicate nature of facilities within communities and are keen to work with the community to develop links. The football club and school shall shortly be releasing a press statement, which we shall share with the local community.
We are indebted to Andy Lowe, Wrexham AFC Academy Manager for his time and dedication which has enabled the partnership to be established. We also wish to thank Michael Williamson and his team at Wrexham AFC for their work and opportunity to develop this partnership.
I wish to express gratitude to Jonathan Miller from Wrexham Local authority and his team who have worked tirelessly, supporting the school through this process. We look forward to this being the start of a successful long-term partnership between the football club and the school, which will benefit generations of families across Wrexham.
The Chief Executive and senior team of the council are aware and supportive of the partnership, as are the lead member of education and senior figures in the Education department. We have contacted local council representatives in the early stages of these discussions, they are aware of the plans to date.

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