Last week we charted the rise of sports tourism in Mallorca and how our corner of the island in Colonia Sant Jordi is looking to attract more sports groups and the active tourist.
This week it was the turn of the politicians as the Council of Mallorca’s tourism minister, Andreu Serra, took a trip out to the countryside to meet with the mayor of Ses Salines, Juan Rodriquez, the president and vice-president of the local hotel association Gori Bonet, and Poli Bonet Haebler, along with founder of the BEST Centre Matthew O’Connor.
The town is already well known in elite swimming and triathlon circles, and the group are looking at ways of raising the general spots profile of this part of the island internationally as well as a local project to add a running path around the historic Salines that connects the sports facilities with the beaches.
Meanwhile, high level conversations in Loughborough, the elite sports hub of the UK, have been taking place to make Mallorca the go-to destination for the Loughborough Sport brand, which oversees all sport at the University, the College and the town, turning the south east of the island into Loughborough Sant Jordi.
Loughborough has for three years running been named the world’s best university for sports-related subjects in the global QS higher education league table.
Loughborough College have partnered with the BEST Centre to create the education and sports Academy programme in Colonia Sant Jordi, which this September, will open new programmes for tennis and football players alongside the swimmers and triathletes.
Loughborough is a little like the English equivalent of Lausanne in that it is the location of any number of national governing bodies as well as Sport England, the UK Talent Team and the Youth Sport Trust.
When a power-hitter like Loughborough Sport starts taking an interest in a small corner of Mallorca, the regional development centres across the UK start to take notice.
At the same time the sports minister was touring the facilities in Colonia, Loughborough College were meeting with the heads of performance sport in tennis and triathlon to make a performance pathway that comes through Loughborough Sant Jordi.
In tennis for example, the performance pathway stops at 14. The very best are supported and steered towards the National Tennis Centres in Loughborough and Stirling, and the rest are left to find their own way.
Some head to the tennis programmes on offer at the private schools and others drop out of the system altogether. The sport has recognised the gap and are taking steps to keep more players engaged with the sport for longer. Part of that strategy is connecting a Loughborough College education with Mallorca’s long history of success in tennis.
The island is the home of Carlos Moya and Rafa Nadal and to take a coffee on the terrace at the Nadal Academy and watch the pair hit together is a rare treat.
As well as the behemoth Nadal Academy, the island is home to the Global Tennis Team under legendary coach Jofre Porta, and the Vilas Academy. Joining this elite group is Unity Tennis who have been identified as the tennis partner for the BEST Centre Academy and Loughborough College sport.
Meanwhile, Loughborough is also starting up its own Triathlon development group under the coaching of international triathlete Jack Hall, and brother of Olympian Lucy Hall.
Jack will also oversee the Academy group based in Loughborough Sant Jordi, which will be a satellite of the Loughborough programme but with better weather.
The group will share sports science resources with access to nutritionists, sports psychologists and exercise physiologists, combine training camps in Majorca and compete together as one team.
Loughborough College also provide the 6th form education programme to many clubs in the English Football League and this is another sport where the players need pathways that help them form a career in the sport they love when they are released from the academy structure.
Contrary to public perception, clubs nowadays are very good at helping young players with these transitions, and Loughborough College and the BEST Centre are working to lay a pathway to continue their playing careers in Mallorca.
Of particular interest is women’s football where girls will live and train at the Mallorca Academy and then head to US Colleges to challenge themselves in the most competitive environment in world football.
It will take a while for the pathways to be laid and the talent to begin to flow, but once it does the level of elite sport in Mallorca will continue to rise.