UEFA President Michel Platini has visited the National Centre for Women's Football (Nationale Zentrum für Frauenfußball) in St Polten, Austria, at the invitation of the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB).
The women's football academy provides world-class facilities for girls to reach the top level in the female game and is partly funded by HatTrick, UEFA's investment programme for national associations.
Michel Platini said: "I'm always happy to see UEFA's investment in action and the Austrian FA has done a great job here. This centre will support girls playing at grassroots level to take the crucial step to reach the A team."
Austria's National Centre for Women's Football forms part of the national association's talent development programme and aims to help with the transition from youth to professional football. It offers intensive training in tactical and technical excellence. The young athletes' personal development is also supported and actively promoted. In addition to top-class football training, girls studying at the academy have the chance to continue their studies. The higher education subjects on offer include sports science, sports medicine and psychology.
Women's football continues to grow in importance and numbers – to date, UEFA counts more than 1.8 million registered female footballers in Europe. UEFA's flagship women's club competition, the UEFA Women's Champions League, reaches the knockout stages this month. The Austrian club playing in the UEFA Women's Champions League this season, SV Neulengbach, start their campaign on 28 September. The 2011/12 final will be played in Munich on 17 May.
UEFA's continued commitment to women's football is notably highlighted through its HatTrick initiative. In December 2010, the UEFA Executive Committee decided to allocate €100,000 to each of UEFA's 53 member national associations per year between 2012 and 2016 via HatTrick for developing the female game.
Moreover, last term four national associations were selected to receive €50,000 in funding as part of a women's football development pilot scheme. This has already led to the Republic of Ireland setting up a national women's league and Portugal staging a women's football day. Following the initial success of the scheme, it was decided to renew the operation for the 2011/12 season, increasing the availability of funding to 40 national associations.
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