The UEFA Study Group Scheme moves into a new year with Europe's national associations continuing to help each other's development with the overall well-being of football in mind.
This innovative programme sees the associations share technical know-how through a series of reciprocal visits for seminars and discussions on a variety of sectors of the game. The scheme is an initiative of UEFA president Michel Platini and aims to raise pan-European standards.
All 53 UEFA member associations are involved, and association representatives who travel to another country glean invaluable experience and information which they can take back to their own associations. Some 1,850 technicians are expected to participate in the much-heralded technical project this season, with 28 FAs hosting visits. In addition, every member of the European governing body's Development and Technical Assistance Committee will take part in at least one seminar.
One of the latest associations to stage a Study Group Scheme session is the Football Association of Wales (FAW), which invited counterparts from Italy, Germany and Malta to come and discuss grassroots football. The three visiting associations joined the FAW in swapping know-how on a sector which UEFA insists is vital for football's health – a healthy basis means a healthy elite. Coach education at grassroot level, girls' football and disability football were all specific items on the agenda.
"The UEFA Study Group Scheme is an excellent initiative," said Welsh Football Trust CEO Neil Ward. "It provides each attending nation with the opportunity to showcase their development structures, the ultimate aim being that everyone involved can gain new ideas on how to improve existing programmes and football provision in their respective associations.
"We were delighted when UEFA asked Wales to be a host association for grassroots football," he added. "We had a busy programme of presentations and visits. The response and contributions of the delegates from Germany, Italy and Malta were extremely positive. A great deal of information was exchanged and many friendships were formed."
"It's a very positive initiative, as different countries can interchange knowledge, know-how, customs and friendship," reflected Italian Football Federation (FIGC) technical representative Franco Ferrari. "All the subjects tackled were interesting," added Malta Football Association (MFA) vice-president Ludovico Micallef. "However, of particular interest to us was the work being done by the Welsh FA with regards to football for the disabled. This study group was very fruitful to us, as we learnt that good results can be achieved even with relatively low funds, as long as there is the will to succeed."
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