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The ICON: Turning England players into pass masters?

BARCELONA are already one of the main clients of Dorset-based Elite Skills Arena - which seems fitting for a company vowing to bring Tiki Taka to any club or country.

Their flagship product, The ICON, puts you at the centre of a 10-metre diameter circle made up of 16 LED panels. The objective is to manipulate the ball to hit as many flashing targets as possible within a set time.

It’s a supreme test of touch, reactions and accuracy - all the attributes that have made Barca the team of the Millennium. You suspect Xavi would be imperious inside The Icon, although ambassadors Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere aren’t too shoddy themselves.

CEO Ryan Warrener says players get more than 70 touches a minute in The ICON, whereas they'd only get 50 to 60 in an entire 90-minute Premier League match.

“Our mantra is repetition,” Warrener told TGG. “We use the circular design to incorporate the tight situations for players to get their touches away.

“Essentially, you pass and play with the ball - all the fundamental attributes needed in a game situation. We calculate their (clients’) usage on a monthly basis and they have often used it up to 2,000 times.

"It’s used from the under 6s and 7s all the way up to the first team.”

Of the Premier League teams, Liverpool and Southampton use ESA’s products. The smaller ICON costs £20,000 to buy, although rental prices begin from £350 a day.

Warrener adds: “Our method is to start from the top. You have the fast growing markets in football in both China and America and we will have a look to develop even further there.”

Head of Sales Sam Roots says: “In the last couple of months it’s been really popular. We’ve gone to America and Germany to big conventions. Lots of clubs are now interested. When people see it, they love it.

"Coaches can see how it can be used in training methods and academies. We would like to think that every club training ground will have one of these and we don’t feel that there is a limit to it as we can always develop and design new models.”

Players are able to select one of 10 modes for The ICON, which ranges in diameter from four to 10 metres, and try to hit a panel every time it lights up. You can set the sequence of lights to be random or to a predetermined plan. Wi-Fi connectivity is incorporated into the product and users can analyse their scores on the ESA app.

Former Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell set up the company, and Warrener explains: “Eddie has an architectural background, so he had the idea of using the circle with the player and the ball at the heart of it.”


Wilshere is known as one of the most technically gifted midfielders in the Premier League

Early impressions could lead to comparisons with Borussia Dortmund’s Footbonaut - but Warrener says players get many more touches with The ICON.

“It is a similar concept of using the lights,” he says, “but with the Dortmund model you can only load up to 50 footballs, whereas here you are in constant use of the football.”

ESA’s other products include the smaller ICON Q arc, the progressive ICON Motion and the Precession Wall, which focusses on shooting rather than passing.

With products already shipping to America and Asia, this start-up, with their modest base in Poole, could be about to become a significant player in world football.

Highest number of passes (Premier League, 2016/17):

  • 1. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool): 2,059
  • 2. Paul Pogba (Man Utd): 1,787
  • 3. Ander Herrera (Man Utd): 1,642
  • 4. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea): 1,580
  • 5. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea): 1,472
  • 6.Victor Wanyama (Tottenham): 1,455

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