The world of football never stands still – the search for innovation, new ideas, fresh departures and consistent progress takes place every day. In line with its remit as European football's governing body, UEFA has an unquenchable thirst to see the European game develop in a wide variety of areas, in particular with the help of its national associations, which are vital sources of knowledge and know-how.
On and off the field, one of UEFA's key objectives since its foundation in June 1954 has been to foster the continual improvement of the European game, and to help each country under its wing to nurture their own domestic structures through constant mutual dialogue, sage advice, financial and other support, events, conferences and workshops bringing associations together for discussion and the exchange of ideas, and educational programmes which are an essential source of learning for the present and future.
In technical terms, this means coach education. UEFA and the associations strive to train those who are responsible for nurturing footballers, in particular youngsters, and prepare coaches for what is a challenging profession. It means the grassroots, and ensuring that everyone can experience the joy of the game at whatever level they aspire to – especially the young as an entrance into the sport. It means giving young players a taste of international football at an early stage through development tournaments. And it means solidarity, with the larger countries passing on invaluable expertise to their smaller counterparts who are eager to take giant steps forward.
Sharing knowledge to help associations function even more efficiently is a primary facet of the KISS programme – which has become a proud component of UEFA's national associations' co-operation under the innovative umbrella of the UEFA HatTrick scheme. For more than a decade, HatTrick funding has been responsible for helping countries upgrade and introduce new stadiums and training centres, as well as build anew and renovate their national association headquarters.
Association staff learn with UEFA's help. The Top Executive Programme (TEP) has a mission to support associations' top executives in their decision-making roles, through coaching them to use information – facts and figures, databases – to further develop their game, their organisation and their business. A series of initiatives between UEFA and the academic community has also produced a set of tailor-made courses to further educate association management staff and fulfill their needs – and thereby help the associations to manage its affairs with aplomb.
Finally, UEFA's development work has been a significant factor in the unstoppable rise of women's football. In recent years, the women's game has become a public and commercial attraction in its own right, and has flourished in technical and tactical terms at all levels. More and more women and girls are being enticed into football as players, referees, officials or volunteers, and young girls now have women superstar players as role models. UEFA's senior women's competitions – the Women's EURO and the UEFA Women's Champions League – are setting new standards with each edition, while the youth tournaments provide a fascinating opportunity to discover the women stars of the future.
The impact of the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP) is being felt throughout Europe, as UEFA and the associations step up their impetus to push women's football forward to an even brighter future.