A team of Scottish FA staff from football development, along with President of the Scottish Amateur FA Graham Harkness, travelled across the Irish Sea last week to learn how the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) helps the grassroots game flourish.
The study trip – arranged by UEFA’s study group scheme – offered our Scottish FA delegation the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to develop the non-professional game.
“We took across a range of staff from regional managers to football development officers,” explained the Scottish FA’s head of regional development Andy Gould.
“We were able to see and hear about a range of projects that the FAI deliver, ranging from girl's football programmes, intercultural programmes, employment training initiatives for coaches, to developing volunteers and coaches in the game and providing diversionary football for young players living in urban communities.
“We also visited the national stadium, the Aviva stadium.”
Drawing comparisons with the way in which grassroots football in Scotland is developed, Andy said our Irish counterparts adopted a similar outlook.
“The FAI has a similar philosophy to our own, whereby the volunteers and coaches are critical to the success of any grassroots programme and that football should be available for everyone to play,” he said.
“They provide a range of support to develop coaches in order to provide quality football opportunities for all ages and abilities of players.”
Summing up the trip, Andy said: “The Irish were extremely friendly and provided a warm welcome ensuring our stay in Dublin was both educational and informative. We even managed a game of football against Macedonia!”
No trip including characters such as Andy Gilchrist and Dave McCardle would be without its fair share of laughs.
In one comical scenario at Dublin Airport, Andy explained: “Gavin Tinley and Stuart Smith managed to exit the airport through the wrong door, just before departure gates, and found they were unable to get back in the building.
"After a great deal of fuss we did manage to get our colleagues back before we took off.”