UEFA and Europe's leading coaches have joined forces for the latest session of invaluable discussions about a number of issues on the European football agenda.
Trends and talking points
The 11th Elite Club Coaches Forum saw European football's governing body and the high-level coaching fraternity gather at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland, to debate trends and talking points. UEFA has taken many of the coaches' ideas on board in recent years in shaping its competitions, and welcomes the chance to spend time with Europe's foremost club technicians in order to exchange opinions and to consider developments in coaching at football's summit.
"When we started organising this event, it was to give the coaches a voice about our competitions, as they are on the front line," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh, "but it then went beyond this, and we began talking about the football as well. We've been talking about referees, rules, regulations and competitions, but we've also been talking about management and what happens on the pitch – football issues that matter to the coaches.
"In addition, there are younger coaches here that are facing major issues at big clubs, and [experienced] coaches like Sir Alex Ferguson can give them worldly advice," he added. "UEFA provides the platform and information, the coaches give us feedback, and the coaches discuss among themselves."
Match officials' views
Refereeing issues were one item on the agenda during two days of intense discussions, with former top Italian referee and UEFA Referees Committee member Pierluigi Collina present to put forward the match officials' views. Discussions centred, for example, on modifications to technical-area rules whereby coaches no longer have to sit down, and can now stand in the technical area as long as they conduct themselves in the proper manner.
Explanations were given to the coaches about the experiment with two additional assistant referees, to take place in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage. (Click here for more information.) The coaches were told that the experiment's objective, among other things, was to help the referees make correct decisions on, for example, incidents taking place in the penalty area. "There's progress here, and progress is important, so I think we should try it," said Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the forum.
Process of education
A general debate was also held on simulation – "from two sides, the refereeing side and the disciplinary side, as these are two separate issues," said Roxburgh, "and we also talked about what the coaches' responsibilities are in this area." The coaches agreed that a process of education should take place with players, to make them aware of the gravity of the offence in terms of football's well-being, and the negative influence that simulation has on youngsters.
Pitches came up for discussion too. "The coaches are very keen that the standards for pitches in terms of quality are sufficiently high to allow football to be played at a very high pace and intensity," said Roxburgh, "so that the fans and public see football of the highest quality."
The coaches in attendance were: Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC), Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United FC), Manuel Pellegrini (Real Madrid CF), Jesualdo Ferreira (FC Porto), Claude Puel (Olympique Lyonnais), Ciro Ferrara (Juventus), Laurent Blanc (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Didier Deschamps (Olympique de Marseille), Felix Magath (FC Schalke 04), Thomas Schaaf (Werder Bremen), Martin Jol (AFC Ajax), Valeri Gazzaev (FC Dynamo Kyiv), Walter Smith (Rangers FC), Dan Petrescu (AFC Unirea Urziceni), Abel Resino (Club Atlético de Madrid), Henk Ten Cate (Panathinaikos FC) and Bernard Challandes (FC Zürich).
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