Thirty-six clubs in the premier and first divisions have signed up to "Playing for Success", which is part of the Government's pound;200 million "Study Support" strategy.
Two pilot centres, at Newcastle United and Sheffield Wednesday, opened in February last year, followed by Leeds United in the autumn. Others began in January; more will follow through the year.
Each centre is funded by a three-way partnership of the local authority, the DFEE and the football club.
They will cost pound;100,000 a year to run, on top of a one-off setting-up cost of pound;150,000. The project leans heavily on ICT; centre managers have to find local sponsors. For its part, the club provides premises and perks for the children.
Each local authority decides which schools are to be targeted.
In Newcastle, for example, the project will touch every school in the city over the initial three years, whereas in Leeds the focus is on schools in the "inner south" of the city - a densely populated area which scores high on every measure of deprivation.
Selecting the children is left to each school. DFEE guidelines say: "The centres are expected mainly to cater for key stage 2 and 3 pupils, especially those who are disaffected (or in danger of becoming so) and who need a boost to their literacy, numeracy and IT skills and to their motivation."
But it adds that the key criterion is to "offer the opportunity to those most likely to benefit from the centre's provision."
Perhaps 25 children will attend any one session - in some centres they will be all from one school, in another there may be half a dozen from each of three or four schools.
Pupils are picked up and taken home by bus.
They do either one or two sessions a week, one of which might be on a Saturday morning.
The sessions are grouped in blocks of between five and 10 weeks.
Each centre is staffed by a manager recruited from teaching. There is also an administrator and an ICT technician.
They are usually supported by part-time "tutormentors" who are higher education students or sixth-formers.
The project will be evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which will produce a first report on good practice this spring and then, perhaps next year, a more extensive report based on pupil outcomes.