The UEFA Jira Panel – which comprises experienced technicians – is assuming a crucial role in football development through its work on behalf of coach education through Europe.
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The education of football coaches is high on the list of technical priorities for UEFA and the national associations throughout Europe.
The overall viewpoint is straightforward – coaches who are well-trained will themselves help to form good players, with the overall well-being of European football in mind.
The Jira Panel is one of the UEFA panels that discuss specialist European football issues. The panel – named after renowned Czech player, coach and administrator Václav Jíra – consists of experienced technicians/coach educators, many of whom have coached or even played at the higher levels of the game. At panel meetings, they are joined by guests and experts – all with the objective of ensuring that high standards are maintained in the drive to produce top-quality coaches.
The panel backs UEFA's Development and Technical Assistance Committee in its work and, more specifically, advises UEFA, UEFA's 53 member associations, clubs and third parties on coach education matters. It also contributes to the application and implementation of the UEFA Convention on the Mutual Recognition of Coaching Qualifications. The Coaching Convention's goal is to protect the coaching profession and smooth the way for the free movement of qualified coaches within Europe in accordance with European law.
UEFA also encourages its member associations to share technical knowledge with the overall benefit of European football in mind.
UEFA understands that to mould outstanding players and enable them to deploy their talents to the full in a team context also takes outstanding coaches. Such coaches do not arise out of nowhere – they are first and foremost the product of a high-quality coach education system.
Members of the Jira Panel are unanimous in welcoming the benefits of coach education. "For me, coach education is the base if you want to have good results with your team," said former Sweden trainer Lars Lagerbäck, now in charge of Iceland. "It doesn't matter if you are coaching Spain, Sweden or a youth team in a small club. From my experience, a well-educated coach can make a big difference when it comes to results, as well as with their ability to educate young players to become first-class internationals.
"Today, all 53 UEFA member associations are members of the Coaching Convention, which shows the importance of the Jira Panel," Lagerbäck added. "In my opinion, the work it carries out in coach education is fantastic. To visit different countries and different cultures in football as a Jira Panel member gives you a great experience. You learn more about football and coach education and, at the same time, you can hopefully help other countries further develop in this technical area."
For Football Association of the Czech Republic (ČMFS) technical director Dušan Fitzel, membership of the Jira Panel also presents a path for personal self-improvement. "To be part of such a high-quality group of coaches, technical directors and coach education directors is an excellent opportunity to gain more knowledge, share experience and hear feedback from different countries and associations," he said. "I am sure our association will benefit from this experience – and that I will too."
"Coach education is a very important factor for football's development," is the reflection of Danish Football Association (DBU) technical director Peter Rudbaek. "It is necessary to set common high standards and comply with them. These common high standards also provide excellent opportunities for inspiration and fellowship between countries."
In each UEFA member association, the permanent improvement of the quality of coach education is part of a mission statement, as the technical director of the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB) Michel Sablon explained. "Throughout the different levels of the coaching courses, the competences and the quality of the coaches should result in better players."
As the 53 associations are all part of UEFA's Coaching Convention, each coach education school is committed to updating the courses and using advanced technologies in the learning procedures. Most of all, UEFA's requirements stimulate current national quality levels, by encouraging countries to reach international standards, especially given the obligation for coaches (who want to work abroad) to have valid licences.
"The role of the Jira Panel is crucial as the monitoring body," Sablon said. "Each Jira Panel member has a supporting and advisory duty, and a role as an evaluator of the member associations' coach education programmes in accordance with UEFA's minimum requirements."
Good coach educators = good coaches = good players. Through its invaluable work and expert recommendations, the Jira Panel makes an essential contribution to football's development.