One of UEFA's key missions is to ensure the exchange of technical knowledge between its national associations through the innovative UEFA Study Group Scheme (SGS), which is now well into its fourth season.
The scheme was set up on the initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini, and has allowed national associations to join together to pass on technical expertise for the overall well-being of the European game. As a rule, three associations travel to a fourth host association for seminars dealing with either elite youth development, grassroots football, coach education or women's football.
The objective of the scheme is to raise standards across Europe as association specialists – with the help of UEFA funding – gather technical tips from their counterparts from fellow associations or at club level. So far in 2011/12 there have been 36 seminars and the remaining 18 will be organised by the beginning of June.
In March, elite youth development – the nurturing of tomorrow's stars – was the focus, with four separate SGS visits being hosted by England (guests: Czech Republic, Portugal, Spain); Austria (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Wales); Norway (Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, Lithuania) and Netherlands (Armenia, Latvia, San Marino).
Grassroots football, another crucial component of UEFA's strategy, was the focal point for two further seminars, staged by the Republic of Ireland (FYROM, Netherlands, Scotland) and Israel (Estonia, Kazakhstan, Slovenia). UEFA grassroots ambassador Per Ravn Omdal was a keen participant in the discussions in Israel and Mordechai Shpigler, the Israeli football great who now is a member of the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee, also joined in those exchanges.
The SGS has the welcome effect of motivating participants to return home with ideas and concepts for use and dissemination within their own associations. The Development and Technical Assistance Committee, in cooperation with the UEFA administration, monitors the scheme, assesses it standards and studies the feedback from host and visiting associations.
Jerzy Engel, the vastly experienced Polish coach and another Development and Technical Assistance Committee member, is particularly enthusiastic about experiences in his expert area of coach education. "I am positive that such meetings and exchanging knowledge about coach education will help to develop better coaches in future," he said, emphasising the positive spirit of the SGS seminars. "The most important aspect, like in a football team, is the atmosphere during such conferences."
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