The innovative UEFA Study Group Scheme, in which technical know-how is being exchanged between European national associations for the overall benefit of the continental game, is settling into its fourth season.
The scheme is an initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini and its objective is to facilitate the greater exchange of technical expertise as UEFA member associations visit one another to share knowledge, experience and best practice in coach education as well as elite youth, women's and grassroots football. Some 55 seminars are taking place during 2011/12, with the scheme being further expanded this season to include four pilot courses on goalkeeper coach education, as an addition to the four staple subjects.
The programme also works to raise pan-European standards through individual visits by association specialists – with the help of UEFA funding – to gather technical tips at other associations or at club level.
In two recent examples of the scheme's activities, the Polish Football Federation (PZPN), and more specifically UEFA EURO 2012 host city Wroclaw, hosted a seminar on elite youth development for representatives from the FAs of Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, while the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) welcomed goalkeeping specialists from thoughout Europe for an invaluable course in Dublin.
PZPN president Grzegorz Lato expressed his appreciation of the programme. "This very popular educational programme," he said, "which is very important for the further development of European football, made it possible for the elite youth coaches from four national associations to get to know the main ideas of the UEFA Study Group Scheme, to exchange information during integrated sessions, to share from theoretical and practical presentations by expert colleagues, to have informal talks on elite youth football – and to see the beautiful new stadium for EURO 2012." The visit to the new Municipal Stadium Wroclaw was also highly appreciated by the participants
The goalkeeper coaching course held by the FAI in Dublin allowed 50 goalkeeper coach educators to gather for three days and look at this specific topic. Feedback from UEFA's 53 associations regarding this pilot project is extremely positive.
Elsewhere at the end of October, Switzerland hosted an elite youth development seminar for guests from Scotland, England and Bulgaria, and Italy staged a seminar on women's football, with the Republic of Ireland, Malta and Azerbaijan in attendance.
This year's overall schedule comprises 11 gatherings on coach education, 16 on elite youth football, 16 on grassroots football and 11 on women's football. There will be 29 different host associations, including five new hosts – Cyprus, Israel, Malta, Moldova and Slovenia. Again, UEFA's Development and Technical Assistance Committee will be on hand to provide expert input.
The national associations have given a hearty welcome to the Study Group Scheme since its launch in 2008. Last December, the UEFA Executive Committee decided to make the scheme a long-term educational programme. In total, 156 seminars have taken place over the first three years – 46 on elite youth football, 44 on coach education, 35 on grassroots and 31 on women's football. These were staged by 30 different FAs and involved around 5,000 technicians from around Europe, as well as all members of the Development and Technical Assistance Committee.
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