Their aim is to compete on the field of play, but Europe's national associations continue to share football know-how and valuable experience with each other as part of the UEFA Study Group Scheme.
Know-how and expertise
The scheme is an initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini, and aims to facilitate the exchange of technical know-how and expertise. It will contribute to raise pan-European standards through visits by association specialists - with the help of UEFA funding - to gather technical knowledge from other associations, particularly at their clubs.
The UEFA Study Group Scheme, in which all 53 UEFA member associations are involved, will run for four years. All together, 149 seminar opportunities are in the pipeline for this season. Where possible, each trip should have different participants and its own individual study focus.
UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee chairman Per Ravn Omdal and members of the committee have been monitoring the progress of the scheme since its launch, and are proud of the way that the European associations have been prepared to work together for the benefit of the European game.
"It's a wonderful opportunity - associations are grasping the purpose of the scheme. They really feel that they can learn something from other associations, because in Europe everyone is doing something good somewhere," said Omdal. "The programme has so many positive elements. There are a lot of intelligent and experienced people working in the European game - from Andorra to England."
Coach education, youth, women's and grassroots football have been the key focal points discussed at seminars in recent times. In one recent example of the study group scheme in operation, Finland hosted delegations from Iceland, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic to exchange know-how on women's and girls' football. The Football Association of Finland's technical director Jarmo Matikainen explained about the organisation of the women's and girls' game in Finland, and the delegations travelled to the Eerikkilä Sports Insititute to watch a girls' Under-16 match between Finland and Wales.
School sports and women's club football was also on the agenda, with a presentation given by top-flight women's club FC Honka Espoo about their projects for the coming two years. In December, a Finnish delegation will travel to the Netherlands to find out how women's and girls' football is organised within the Dutch game, showing how the association network is flourishing.
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