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UEFA and its member national associations share a common desire to improve overall standards within football across Europe. This is particularly true for the technical sector, where the European governing body has joined forces with associations in a variety of areas in which information is exchanged, ideas and good practice examples are swapped, and recommendations and advice are passed for future progress and development.
Two innovative projects are flourishing in the UEFA technical sector – the UEFA Study Group Scheme and the UEFA coach education student exchange programme.
The Study Group Scheme aims to facilitate the greater exchange of technical know-how and expertise. It is also looking to raise pan-European standards through, for example, visits by association specialists – with the help of UEFA funding – to gather technical knowledge in other associations, particularly at their clubs.
The scheme, in which UEFA's member associations are involved, sees member associations visit one another to share knowledge, experience and best practice in three main areas – coach education, women's and grassroots football.
UEFA's Development and Technical Assistance Committee, in cooperation with the UEFA administration, monitors the UEFA Study Group Scheme. The quality of the scheme is assessed by committee members and by processing the feedback from both the host and visiting associations.
Feedback has been excellent from UEFA's associations, all of which are contributing to the project. The scheme is regarded as an extremely valuable technical exchange which encourages development. Knowledge is power; more technical exchange means more power to the associations and therefore to European football.
The student exchange programme for coach education started at pilot level in 2011. The programme's goal is to give students of the UEFA Pro licence opportunities the chance to swap international knowledge, as well as to enjoy direct access to UEFA tutors and content as part of their education. It is a major step forward in UEFA's coach education work in conjunction with the European national associations.
The student coaches, many of whom are aiming to move into the coaching profession after completing careers as professional footballers, undertake theoretical and practical sessions. They receive invaluable tips for the future from coaching figures who have a wealth of experience behind them. The students are advised about the challenges and pitfalls of this demanding profession, and are given key pointers on the personal and professional profile that a coach needs to survive and prosper in the job on a long-term basis. The national associations involved also get a crucial opportunity to exchange coaching information and expertise, with European football's overall well-being in mind.
At least four European associations are present at each event, under the guidance of their own respective coach education directors. UEFA brings experienced tutors or coach educators to the courses together with UEFA's football education services, and members of the UEFA Jira Panel – the UEFA body responsible for overseeing coach education – take part together with guest presenters.
Both the Study Group Scheme and the coach education student exchange programme have proved their considerable value – in particular, as vehicles to safeguard and nurture the good health of European football.