Initiatives from throughout Scotland’s grassroots football programmes took centre stage last week as a UEFA study group visited Ayrshire.

The group, comprising of visitors from Slovenia, Hungary, Cyprus, Serbia, Poland, Ireland and Germany, were welcomed by Scottish FA Chief Executive Stewart Regan and paid a visit to Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park to hear about the strides being made within our national game.

Delegates were able to share their own individual national experiences and ideas about the game’s wider social responsibility.

They also paid a visit to Auchenharvie Academy in Stevenson to hear from two pupils who have directly benefited from the Schools for Football initiative – where the motto is “person first, player second”.

Former Kilmarnock star Garry Hay, who works with the programme, says the benefits went both ways.

He said: “The kids we have come across have been fantastic. It has been very rewarding helping young people become better people, as well as getting them involved in football.

“It has been really interesting to hear from the other countries and what they’re doing in their own grassroots game. It’s about sharing ideas, and hopefully there are things the other countries can pick up on. We’re certainly picking things up from them.”

The study group also heard from Corrie Campbell and Shirley Martin, Girls & Women’s Club Development Officers from the Scottish FA West and South West regions respectively. They talked about the growth achieved in football participation across the board. The achievement of targets in participation and retention of players through sustainable clubs was also highlighted.

The group then went on to Kilwinning Sports Club to hear about their strides towards meeting the UEFA Grassroots Charter. Willi Hink, Director of Football Development at the German Football Association, was impressed with what he seen during his week in Scotland.

He said: “Football has a unique role to play. It is a wonderful sport but which also contributes to social development. This is one of its big selling arguments.”

“In Germany we have set very high standards at club and national level. The challenge is maintaining those and also in improving things at grassroots level. I see many of the ideas we have in Germany being put into practice in Scotland and hopefully the group can go back to their own countries and apply these same standards.”

“Scotland has a great tradition in grassroots development through the work of Andy Roxburgh and Jim Fleeting and this is something from which the other countries this week can learn and apply.”