THE Cheshire FA got the blessing of head office for its new £650,000 base on Thursday.
Though its own offices, meeting rooms and the county football development centre have been operational since the spring, it was only now there was a suitable date in everyone's 'fixture' list.
The building is at Moss Farm, within a goal kick's distance of the cramped former farm cottage rooms the Cheshire FA had previously occupied.
Geoff Thompson, chairman of the English FA, did the honours, unveiling a plaque and commending Cheshire for its football achievements in the past.
'But this building is about the future. It is an exciting time to be involved in football,' he said.
He was accompanied by Mark Palios, the new chief executive at the FA and one-time Cheshire youth player and former professional with Crewe Alex and Tranmere Rovers.
Cheshire president Alan Burbidge mentioned Palios had 'a few other things on his mind', and the chief executive did seem relaxed back on his own stamping ground and away from the Ferdinand issue.
'I was keen to come. I love this area and have some great memories.
'The Cheshire FA has a fabulous facility and it is a classic example of an organisation helping itself. They do a tremendous job at grassroots.
'Perhaps we have not told people what we do well enough.
'For the professional game to thrive there has to be high participation in football throughout the country, and there is in Cheshire.'
Thompson said Cheshire had done a remarkable job in football development.
'Here they can provide opportunities and improve skills and coaching.
'The role of the counties is to control the game, but also promote it, though players don't always realise that.'
Burbidge introduced the special guests and listed Cheshire as one of the oldest associations (only three were affiliated earlier).
'This year is our 125th anniversary, but we have not had time to celebrate it yet.
'More than 25 years ago we visited Sheffield FA and saw their headquarters and decided we needed one. We thought this day would never come. This is our big moment.'
The building was funded by the Cheshire and English FAs and the Football Foundation, whose chief executive Peter Lee also attended the ceremony.
The building, named Hartford House, is the first purpose-built centre in the country. There is a multi-purpose conference suite to seat 120 people, various offices, dressing rooms for adults, children and referees and a parent's waiting room.
Maureen Dunford, Cheshire's chief executive, said: 'The future of football in Cheshire depends on us providing play-ers, officials and everyone connected with the game with the facilities they deserve. We will lead the way in encouraging more people to play football and in raising standards.
Palios presented development manager John Ackerley with the Charter Standard Holiday Courses Award. Cheshire is also breaking new ground in the appointment of a referees' development officer, David Moyles.