A cornerstone of UEFA's activities since its foundation six decades ago is the relationship with Europe's national football associations. A variety of programmes involve European football's governing body either giving invaluable help to its 53 member associations, or bringing together the associations to exchange ideas and expertise that will not only benefit the associations but also hopefully boost the overall well-being of the continental game.
The UEFA Study Group Scheme is one such ambitious and successful programme. Launched in 2008 on the initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini, the scheme provides for technical exchanges between the European FAs in several areas, aiming to facilitate a productive trade in technical know-how. Association delegates with an interest in specialist topics – coach education and youth, women's and grassroots football – visit other associations, and also clubs within an association, to gather technical knowledge.
Now the scheme is to become a long-term educational project following the green light given by the UEFA Executive Committee, and such affirmation is destined to make the programme flourish even further.
The UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee, in cooperation with the UEFA administration, is the body responsible for monitoring the UEFA Study Group Scheme. The quality of the scheme is assessed by committee members and by processing the feedback from both host and visiting associations. In principle, every association can host three study visits a year, and each of these get-togethers can feature three different visiting FAs at one time.
Vitaly Mutko, chairman of the Development and Technical Assistance Committee, gave a glowing report on the initiative's success. "I'm delighted to monitor this popular scheme with my fellow committee members and to work hand in hand with the UEFA administration in this context," he said. "I had the chance to attend a number of seminars held in Russia and to receive positive feedback from the visiting associations who have been very appreciative of the opportunity to attend the events.
"I am also pleased that the UEFA Excecutive Committee took the decision to make the scheme a long-term educational programme, thereby ensuring a permanent technical exchange between the associations in the areas of grassroots football, elite youth football, coach education and women's football."
Recent SGS gatherings began with Scotland hosting Northern Ireland, Wales and Iceland for discussions on coach education. Then, during March, England's FA welcomed Germany, Belgium and Armenia (elite youth football); the Netherlands greeted Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Spain (women's football); Denmark entertained Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania and Estonia (coach education); and Italy played host to Armenia, Andorra and Georgia (grassroots).
"We thank the associations for their cooperation and we count on their continuous involvement in the coming years," said UEFA's national associations director Theodore Theodoridis. "They are integral to the success of the project and the main benificiaries of its success. We encourage the associations who are yet to host an event to apply to do so, as we believe that everyone in the football family has something valuable to share."
The decision to make the Study Group Scheme a long-term educational initiative is the result of the enthusiasm shown by associations towards the programme. To date, more than 4,500 technicians have participated in 130 educational events all over Europe, with the feedback from both host and visiting associations being extremely positive. Therefore, UEFA and its member associations will be striving to continue on this path and improve the scheme on an annual basis.
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