UEFA's bond with its 53 member national associations remains as strong as ever – thanks in part to the UEFA Study Group Scheme (SGS), the innovative technical exchange programme which has just ended a successful fourth season.
The scheme was set up on the initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini, and sees national associations join forces 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 aim of the Study Group Scheme is to boost standards throughout Europe as association specialists – with the help of UEFA funding – gather technical tips from their counterparts from fellow associations or at club level.
A total of 54 seminars were held in 2011/12 – 11 on coach education, 16 on elite youth football, 16 on grassroots football and eleven on women's football. Thirty different associations hosted seminars, with Israel, Cyprus, Moldova and Slovenia hosting a seminar for the first time.
Next season will continue the good work done so far. Fifty-two seminars will be organised during the fifth season – 13 on coach education, 15 on elite youth football, 12 on grassroots football and 12 on women's football. Thirty-two national associations will host seminars, with Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Faroe Islands, Bulgaria and Hungary hosting their inaugural seminars.
The work done by the host associations has been outstanding, and has emphasized the common desire with European football to work together and improve quality levels for the overall benefit of everyone. Aleš Zavrl, the general secretary of the Football Association of Slovenia (NZS), sums up the Study Group Scheme in glowing terms: "The Football Association of Slovenia is a relatively small and young association within the football family, and is keen to develop different levels of football by strong commitment to the UEFA slogan We Care About Football. We are proud to have the possibility to contribute to processes which help to establish a better and friendlier football environment. I am sure that the UEFA Study Group Scheme concept brings a lot of new ideas and positive sharing of know-how and experiences."
Other associations have added words of support for the scheme. "The FA of Moldova is grateful to UEFA for giving us the opportunity to be one of the hosts in the 2011/12 Study Group Scheme," said Football Association of Moldova general secretary Nicolai Cebotari. "This gave us another excellent opportunity to share technical knowledge and best practices with our guests - technical specialists from Bulgaria, Italy and Georgia - as well as extend to all participants our well-known Moldovan hospitality."
"As UEFA Study Group Scheme hosts for the first time, we at the Cyprus FA feel proud to say it was a successful and a unique event, and a fruitful and constructive study group workshop for grassroots football," added Phivos Vakis, general secretary of the Cyprus Football Association. "We thank UEFA for their enthusiasm and great help, and for giving us the opportunity to organise such an exciting event."
"We were honoured to host the Study Group Scheme,” said Ori Shilo, general secretary of the Israel Football Association, "and were equally pleased by the positive feedback we received from the participants and UEFA. Israel will continue to put an emphasis on developing grassroots football, and will be happy to further share its experiences in the future."
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