The importance being attached to the development of women's football throughout Europe – underlined by a recent UEFA Executive Committee decision – has been reiterated by a gathering in Nyon that helped set the course for the future in this sector of the game.
The Women's Football Development workshop, held under the auspices of the UEFA Knowledge & Information Sharing Scenario (KISS), was attended by more than 50 of UEFA's member associations and addressed a broad palette of issues relating to women's football, which has experienced continued upwards momentum over recent years. The KISS programme forms part of the HatTrick assistance scheme to UEFA's member associations and is administered by the UEFA national associations division.
At its meeting in Prague in December, the UEFA Executive Committee noted the huge growth in European women's football, in terms of both registered players and participation, and agreed to support the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP) via a yearly payment of €100,000 between 2012 and 2016. These payments will come via the HatTrick III scheme.
Women's football development will now be part of the national associations division's remit, and women's football is one of the key areas for the innovative UEFA Study Group Scheme – in which national associations share technical information and know-how through a comprehensive series of visits to each other for seminars and discussions.
UEFA was delighted to see 51 associations present in Nyon to exchange views and ideas. This first-ever gathering on women's football development focused on subjects such as women's football development at UEFA; women and governance in football; the brand positioning of women's football at UEFA; and the recuitment of female coaches. Several of the participating FAs also presented their own activities and experiences. These included governance issues (Austria and Denmark); volunteer recruitment (Sweden and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia); grassroots programmes (Moldova and Republic of Ireland); promotional campaigns (England); building a girls' academy (Switzerland); and recruitment of female footballers (Germany).
The associations in attendance expressed gratitude to UEFA for organising the workshop and for taking such a proactive role in women's football's growth. "I think the work UEFA is starting to do in terms of supporting the girls and women's game in Europe is absolutely massive for the future of women's football," said Sheila Begbie, head of girls and women's football at the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and a member of the UEFA Women's Football Committee.
"I think a conference like this, through the KISS programme, is really important to support the national associations, it provides people with the opportunity of having input from well-developed countries – models of good practice," she added.
"It's the best idea we've had for a long time," said Elisabeth Bougeard-Tournon, women's football manager at the French Football Federation (FFF). "It enables us to have very instructive presentations on what is happening in other countries, whatever their level, and to exchanges views with people and create networks to all progress together."
"It's been a fantastic couple of days," said Republic of Ireland senior national women's team coach Sue Ronan. "Meeting people you might only normally meet at competition draws but now being able to sit down in discussions with them and find out what is going on within their associations – I think we can all learn going forward."
This all-inclusive event was a key first. The aim now is not to rest on laurels, but to stage smaller workshops catering for the various levels of development of each association, while pilot projects will be held in four countries to assess the initial impact of the latest UEFA investment steps. Women's football continues to flourish – with UEFA at the vanguard of the drive forward.