Top European football teams FC Barcelona and AC Milan have signed up the products of Walsall company Soccer Buddy International after seeing them in action in California.
Soccer Buddy makes mannequins designed with the help of Innovation-Direct.com - part of Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University - for professional football clubs. Managing director Julez Broomes, who has UEFA "B" football coaching qualifications, already has Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and Derby County on the company’s books.
They have signed-up the Soccer Buddy mannequins for use in training sessions, mainly with their academy youngsters.
Barcelona have taken a dozen of the mannequins and AC Milan eight.
Scores of the stand-ups were used in football training sessions by youngsters and their parents attending the Californian Soccer Fair, which is the biggest of its kind in the United States.
Mr Broomes said: "We went to California to demonstrate our mannequins and Barcelona and AC Milan who have training facilities there used by youngsters and more developed players who could move to Europe if they are good enough prospects, took an intense interest in our mannequins.
"Both clubs have taken some of our mannequins and they will use them in their holiday training programmes held for future potential players in their teams."
AC Milan were especially interested in the firm’s new electronic mannequins, which have a LCD surface on their chests and record the speed of the football and even players, as they pass within a four-metre area of the mannequin and are travelling faster than 5mph.
The mannequins created a lot of interest in California and firm orders may be in the pipeline. The firm is now seeking investment in order to fund its international operation.
Soccer Buddy International is also talking to a possible new manufacturer to bring production costs down and is hopeful that manufacturing will remain in the UK.
"We are planning ahead and hope to see our mannequins on school sports fields in playgrounds in the future.
"We are also developing mannequins for others sports and one Midlands sports organisation is already testing one set of them," said Mr Broomes.