An innovative new project in the UEFA technical sector – the UEFA Study Group Scheme – is off and running to herald the new season.
The scheme, an initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini, aims to facilitate the greater exchange of technical know-how and expertise. It will also look to raise pan-European standards through, for example, visits by association specialists – with the help of UEFA funding – to gather technical knowledge in other associations, particularly at their clubs.
The UEFA Study Group Scheme, in which all 53 UEFA member associations are involved, will run for four years until June 2012 and will see member associations visiting one another to share knowledge, experience and best practice in coach education, youth, women's and grassroots football. Austria were the inaugural hosts at Linz in late August, and Denmark have followed in mid-September.
The principles of the Study Group Scheme are as follows: a study group will consist of a maximum of eleven members and a minimum of five, including a translator/interpreter if required. Each visit will last four days, including any necessary travelling, and the content of the stay will be in line with guidelines set by UEFA. The visit should entail a briefing, trips to (and the observation of) football activities, discussions (question and answer sessions), the creation of a log book and follow-up projects. Once the visit is completed, the study group will return to their own association and act as multipliers by disseminating the new information gained to as many colleagues as possible.
UEFA subsidises accommodation, travel, meals and internal transportation within the hosting association for a defined number of people over a four-day period, and UEFA's development and technical assistance committee has overall responsibility for the project. UEFA acts as co-ordinator between the host and visiting national associations, organises the materials necessary to ensure the success of each visit, and provides each participant with a certificate of attendance, a course programme and further UEFA material and resources where appropriate.
The development and technical assistance committee, in co-operation with the UEFA administration, monitors the UEFA Study Group Scheme. The quality of the scheme will be assessed by committee members and by processing the feedback from both the host and visiting associations. In principle, each association can host three study visits per year, and each of these can consist of three different visiting associations at one time. All together, 157 seminar opportunities are in the pipeline for this season. Where possible, each trip should have different participants and an alternative study focus.
UEFA will announce each season's UEFA Study Group Scheme via a circular letter. National associations will then submit their travel requests, via an online registration system, to UEFA, who will try to arrange hosting agreements with the relevant host associations. These hosts will, in principle, be those who have achieved recognition and success in the areas of coach education, youth, women's or grassroots football – which means that the study visit should be focused on hearing and learning about good work in the host association, in these sectors of the game.
"Wonderful things are being done throughout Europe," says development and technical assistance committee chairman Per Ravn Omdal, who has already been hard at work promoting the scheme at major European football gatherings this year. "What we are trying with the Study Group Scheme is to share best practice, to learn from one another. If a youth coach education concept in one country is brilliant, why not bring it to another? We are in the business of being a family and sharing things."
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