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The exchange of technical know-how and information between UEFA and its member associations – and, in a recent innovation – between the associations themselves, is vital for football throughout Europe to be able to continue to develop and improve. European football’s governing body is facilitating this process with a number of successful initiatives.
The UEFA Study Group Scheme and Pro licence coach education exchange programme, as well as special courses and workshops for targeted groups such as coaches and those involved in grassroots football, are just some of the initiatives available to the 53 national associations to help them with their development.
"The main thing is to share ideas," UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh told UEFA.com. "We at UEFA think that, collectively, the associations are far stronger as a collective force."
The UEFA Study Group Scheme has been successfully running since 2008, enabling associations to gather worthwhile technical tips from their counterparts. Member associations visit one another to share knowledge, experience and best practice in coach education, youth, women's and grassroots football. The idea is that more technical exchange means more power to the associations, and therefore, is of overall benefit to European football.
Meanwhile, an initiative that only started officially this season, the Pro licence coach education exchange programme, enables student coaches – the elite coaches of tomorrow – to learn from experienced tutors appointed by UEFA, as well as members of UEFA's Jira Panel, the European body's expert panel on coach education matters.
"Each association has its own philosophy of how its coach veducation should be run - but UEFA's job is to co-ordinate band support what happens around Europe," says Roxburgh. "We identify the best practices and try to help the associations to reach the benchmark level."
In April, the 19th UEFA Course for Coach Educators again highlighted the benefits of gathering representatives from the associations together to enable the sharing of ideas. Former technical director of the organising association of that event, the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB), Michel Sablon is in no doubt about the value of this exchange of views and visions.
He told UEFA.com: "The exchange of information between the different countries and coaches is a very good thing. Where in the past everyone hid their books in closets with keys, those closets and those keys aren’t there anymore and the communication is open. Information is shared."
"This is also something that we discussed within our federation years ago – we shouldn’t hide anything. Then we will get feedback, people will tell us about our weak points, so we can improve. And the good things we’re doing will be recognized. So this brings only benefits."
The technicians themselves welcome the exchanges – and reflect that they can then take the invaluable material they have picked up back to their own associations. Osian Roberts, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) technical director, is one advocate of the technical exchange that happens in coach education, for example.
"We get all the coach educators from all around Europe, all 53 countries, sharing ideas, looking at different ways of addressing certain issues within coach education," he says. "And it certainly inspires all of us, to think about things a little bit differently, challenge what we do, and sometimes endorse what we are doing. So it’s a great opportunity to get together and share good practice."
If the coaches and technicians talking and debating boosts the overall standard of the European game in terms of coaching, organisation and playing – then UEFA's efforts will be very worthwhile.
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