Belgium FA Study Group

The Scottish FA West Region arranged a study trip to visit the Belgium FA in November 2015, with a group that consisted of 12 participants ranging from local football development officers, volunteers from grassroots clubs, and officers from local authorities.

The study trip was arranged in partnership with Jonas Heuts, Grassroots Manager of the Belgian FA, who provided the contacts and advice for the week’s activities, with the following objectives set:Examining Club Structures and Development

  • Examining Competition Structures
  • Examining Coach Education and Pathways
  • Sharing best practice

Belgium was an ideal destination was the country’s success in the last 10 years in terms of player and club development.

The study trip commenced with a visit to the national Belgium FA HQ where a number of presentations were provided on the overall structure of the association. The group found these presentations very informative and it brought about a lot of discussion within the group around areas which could be taken forward. 

Over the next two days of the trip, the group visited two different grassroots clubs and one professional club to examine the infrastructure and development. The main point taken from the group when visiting the clubs was the high level of community involvement; each club had its own philosophy, however all the clubs had full pathways involving all aspects of the game.

Day four of the trip involved a visit to the National Performance Centre hosted by the Director of Coach Education, which involved a series of presentations and workshops. These workshops opportunities allowed the group to discuss in-depth the different areas, share good practice and look at areas that could be developed when returning to Scotland.

The last two days involved a visit to the local Performance Schools, where the most talented young players had an opportunity to further enhance their skills. The Performance Schools were similar to the Scottish FA’s model but have been established for over 10 years - with a number of the current Belgium national squad being a product of the system. The final day involved visiting KV Mechelen where a number of the players involved in the performance school performed: this was a great opportunity to see all the week’s activities come together during a game environment.

The Scottish FA West Region group concluded that the purpose of the trip had been successful and had achieved all of the set objectives. The trip allowed participants to look at simple areas that could be changed, particularly enhancing the development of community clubs.

In conclusion, the support received from Erasmus+ has enabled further development and education to take place with the sharing of best practice. These opportunities will benefit the development of the game in the West Region, allowing for overall strategic objectives to be achieved.     

Valencia Study Group

On 28th of October 2015, the Scottish FA East Region participated in an Erasmus+ exchange visit to the Spanish area of Valencia. The purpose of the trip was to provide an opportunity for 11 coaches and officials from Scottish FA East Region (Tayside and Fife) to visit an area that is renowned and respected worldwide for the development of players and coaches.

There were five main outcomes attached to the week-long visit:

  • Identify examples of good practice based around club, player and coaching philosophies
  • Investigate Spanish club culture and identify how this compares to Scottish cultures
  • Identify areas of good practice based around club customer service
  • Liaise with key stakeholders within the game to foster and develop relationships
  • Investigate grassroots and professional club processes and procedures 
  • Learn about the Spanish players’ mindset and identify how this differs from Scotland

From previous experience and knowledge of this area of Spain, it was identified that its strengths are based around good practice from a coach and club development perspective within a grassroots, semi-professional and professional background. With that in mind, the participants were a mix of club officials from a similar background, together with a representative from a local youth football association and one representative from sportscotland. There were 11 participants in total, including the trip leader

The key observations were:

  • All facilities catered for the customer - parents and spectators. Every venue from professional to grassroots had a covered area which supplied refreshments, shelter and seating area.

  • The mindset and culture of the players was focused towards team efforts in everything they did. This was reinforced by coaches who all talked about installing discipline, respect and humility to their players as a key aim.

  • There was no indication that the development of the game in Spain was down to a specific targeted national methodology and more down to good practice from individual clubs.

  • There was a general consensus within the group that Scottish clubs have as good if not more advanced club processes in place and can be proud of the developments within our game. In particular the support from the clubs governing body does not provide the same high level support which is provided by the Scottish FA.


Feyenoord Football Club

A delegation of Scottish FA Coach Education staff and course participants were given a look behind the scenes of one of world football’s most renowned youth academies when they were invited to Feyenoord Football Club.

The home of Total Football, Holland has produced some of the game’s most talented players and Feyenoord of Rotterdam have carved an enviable reputation as one of the great producers of young talent.

Led by Mark Wotte, the delegation from the Scottish FA were given access all areas courtesy of academy director Piet Hubers. As well as showcasing the club’s best talent from eight years old to the first team squad, Feyenoord also allowed the delegation an insight into their pan-European strategy of developing coaches across the world: Coaching the Coaches.

With such a diverse ethnic mix, Holland have taken their Total Football philosophy globally to improve the prospects for those players and coaches who could yet represent the Dutch.

Hubers was joined by Wim van Zwam, the Netherlands' Under-19 coach, and Aloys Wijnker, the head of AZ Alkmaar's youth academy to provide an overview on the seamless work between the grassroots game and senior professional game.

With an emphasis on drilling the skill and training the brain, the Scottish FA coaches were told how Feyenoord overcame serious financial uncertainty a decade ago by investing precious resources into their academy system. 

It has since consistently been ranked in the top three academies in Holland, with half of their first-team squad hewn from their youth ranks, with more than one-fifth of their academy players representing Holland at age-group level.

The Performance School system developed in Scotland has been implemented with the confidence of Feyenoord’s similar system bearing fruit, enabling players to practice every day as part of their curriculum.

This clear vision has ensured Feyenoord have produced more players in the 2014 FIFA World Cup than any other club on the planet.

Denmark Educational Exchange

The Scottish FA North Region benefitted from a recent Erasmus+ supported educational exchange visit to Aalborg in Northern Denmark. The group travelling to Denmark consisted of key influencers across the game within a host of community-focused football clubs alongside some decision makers within Further Education and the national agency, sportscotland.

Aalborg was an obvious destination due to the good practice around club development and the partnership projects they deliver within the professional game, grassroots game and further education. The geographical similarities with the North  region also proved very useful in terms of comparisons.

The visit began on 7th October 2015 and allowed the group a week in Aalborg with the focus outcomes of the educational visit listed below:

Learn more about the National FA and the Regional role in developing the game at a grassroots level.

  • Visit a Grassroots Community clubs – learn about structure and ethos including info on finance and funding, volunteers, links from youth to adult game and player pathway and development.
  • Visit a Senior Professional clubs to learn about structure and ethos including information on finance and funding, volunteers and player pathway and development. This will also allow us to learn how the pro and grassroots game co-exist.
  • Info on Sport/Football in schools, colleges and community facilities.
  • Regional & Community facilities visits at both a club and regional centre of excellence
  • Meet Key stakeholders throughout the trip.
  • Develop relationships across the spectrum of excellent people who are employed, volunteers and Local experts within the organisations we visit.

The time spent accessing people, structures and activity designed and delivered by the DBU, Aalborg Feja, AAB, Elitesport Alborg and the local municipality and the contributions from all, including the interactions with the group proved to be enlightening, educational and thought provoking.

Feedback from the North contingent was very positive with volunteers and professional attendees alike were keen to effect positive change within their own sphere of influence and ongoing conversations remain with  the host partner organisation and those key to making trip so worthwhile.

In conclusion the support provided by Erasmus+ had a hugely positive effect on those in attendance and ultimately the memberships they are responsible for.

UEFA Under-19 Finals 2015 - Greece

The Scottish FA Performance coaching department were invited by the Greek FA to attend a number of matches during the UEFA European Championship Under-19s finals.

As part of the Scottish FA’s Erasmus+ funding application, the national youth team coaches and technical department were invited to share knowledge and experience of the many areas that culminate in successful planning and execution of a tournament from a coaching perspective.

The trip began with a tactical assessment of France’s 1-0 victory against Austria, which included a look at the situational analysis of key moments in the game, an assessment of the tactical contracts between the teams and a follow-up with the host country on operational matters around the fixture planning and tournament organisation.

The coaching staff were struck by the evolution of systems and styles of play, especially from world-class football nations such as Spain and Germany. They also note a cautious approach to early matches and a reliance on possession in hot and humid temperatures.

The number of goals scored from set-plays also proved a feature of the tournament and so, too, indiscipline and a lack of maturity in decision making resulting in costly yellow cards and red cards.

On top of the finals, the visit also provided two study group placement opportunities with Greek football’s biggest clubs, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.

UEFA Under-21 Championships - Prague

The Scottish FA’s Pro Licence candidates took part in a shared learning experience at the UEFA European Under-21 Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.

Hosted by our counterparts at the Czech FA, the Scottish FA Director of Football development, Jim Fleeting, led 25 Pro Licence candidates to observe coaching trends within the participating finalists and understand the Coach Education provision offered by the host country.

The programme was made possible by the European Union Erasmus+ funding programme, which will enable the Scottish FA to offer lifelong learning in two key areas of its strategic plan, Scotland United a 2020 Vision.

Almost 100 people will benefit from EU travel aimed at Strong Quality Growth and Performance in seven opportunities throughout Europe made possible by Erasmus+ 

The visit was overseen by the Czech FA Technical Director, Dusan Fitzel, who identified the significant differences in the Scottish and Czech coaching programmes. The general focus was on the growing responsibilities of the modern coach and, in particular, the growing need to integrate sports science both into the Coach Education curriculum and in practice.

As well as looking at case studies from the Under-21 Championships teams, modules were devised devoted to biomedical aspects of sports training for children and youth players. These were supplemented by courses on management and leadership, media skills, legal affairs and the growing influence of modern technology in scouting and analysis but also in social media.

On the field, participants were analysed on their game awareness – following all matches with a group discussion, presentation and debate, formational analysis, coaching style comparisons, coaching influences, and team issues.

“Coach Education is one of the most important responsibilities of the Scottish FA. Improvement of coaching skills through European interaction and exchange of innovation, coupled with enhanced employability for all participants, is central to our objective to be a home of great coaching.
“We are grateful to Erasmus+ for their support, which helps realise their commitment to ensuring that we produce a stream of talented, enthusiastic coaches who can play their part in raising standards across Scotland and providing them with the additional skills to improve their employability and career progression.”

Jim Fleeting, Scottish FA Director of Football Development