This week, UEFA Assist and its team of development experts celebrate five years of contributing to the growth of the game outside of Europe.
Assist’s first programmes kicked off back in November 2017 to provide UEFA’s sister confederations – AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and OFC – with knowledge-sharing and development opportunities, sharing European football’s expertise and experience in a spirit of friendship and solidarity for the growth of the game around the world.
UEFA Assist initiatives focus on four main goals:
• Building capacity
• Developing youth football
• Strengthening infrastructure
• Supporting UEFA member associations to create their own solidarity programmes
Over the past five years, Assist has channelled support to more than 400 projects in 120 countries, with many of UEFA’s 55 member national associations contributing their own resources on top of UEFA funding to help raise the global game to its highest possible levels.
Below, we take a closer look at five examples from five continents over the past five years that highlight the invaluable impact of Assist, both on and off the pitch.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC): Off-field organisation
Thanks to expert guidance and examples from UEFA, as well as the Estonian Football Association (EFA) and the Football Association of Wales (FAW), since 2021, 18 Asian federations have taken their marketing, communications and commercialisation to the next level, focusing on important topics such as sponsorship, social media and data collection.
The programme featured a series of pandemic-proof online marketing and income-generation workshops, where participants could also learn from each other, exchange best practices and share success stories.
In Bhutan, for example, the football federation’s rebrand as “Home of Happiness” has had a huge impact, with revamped digital content and innovative fan engagement events creating a huge growth in attendance at league matches and more effective, sustainable revenue generation.
Vahid Kardany, AFC Deputy General Secretary, said, “This collaboration has proven invaluable to developing our member associations. The online group format has been an excellent way to share best practices between our members and to enhance their capabilities with the support of European associations and UEFA Assist experts.”
Confederation of African Football (CAF): Leagues for nations
European football has some of the most professional and successful professional leagues in the world, so UEFA’s expertise can make a real difference to help build the game on other continents.
Since 2019, Assist has worked with 15 African national associations to help improve their existing league organisation and structures, develop the professionalism of clubs and their commercial strategies, sharing the best of European knowledge and experience.
Our experts have also been on hand to provide online mentoring, which ensures clubs, leagues and associations have guidance throughout the process.
Joseph Chimpampwe, Football Association of Zambia deputy general secretary, said, “A standard operations plan with four main goals of governance, club development, league development and marketing & income generation was adopted by all Zambian Premier League clubs. This approach shall greatly enhance performance management as we professionalise and commercialise the League in line with FIFA Club Licensing regulations. Better days are coming for the ZPL!”
Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF): Game-changer for Guyana
The Guyana Football Federation (GFF) is one of a few to have received support across all four pillars of Assist. This has seen a league development programme to support the nation’s 10 top men’s teams, and the launch of a new women’s league.
Under-16 development tournaments took 20 of Guyana’s best young players to Europe for the first time to compete against hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania and Montenegro, while grassroots players have benefited from two minivans to transport them from remote areas to training sessions.
Dedicated national association support has come from the Danish Football Association (DBU), which purchased equipment for the new women’s league and took international striker Martin Braithwaite, who has Guyanese heritage, to the country for a special ambassadorial visit.
It is not just Guyana that has developed its football with help from Assist – almost all of CONCACAF’s 41 member associations have benefited from our initiatives or events.
Wayne Forde, GFF president, said, “We feel so lucky as a national federation. UEFA is complementing the tremendous work that CONCACAF is doing to raise the capacity of its member associations. I believe the impact we’re seeing from the programmes we’re doing with UEFA Assist and the DBU will help our football for many, many years.”
South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL): women’s football moving forward
All over the world, football needs more women – on the pitch, in coaching roles, refereeing and administration.
Building on the success of UEFA’s women’s football strategy, Time for Action, Assist successfully piloted its Football for Women programme in Paraguay and Venezuela following a successful rollout in Asia.
In Venezuela, the initiative will generate 10 nationwide grassroots festivals for girls, created more girls’ teams and promoted the existing women’s league with branding toolkits, social media campaigns and digital marketing strategy guidance.
Thanks to the success so far, the programme will be extended to Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Uruguay this season.
Fabimar Franchi, CONMEBOL head of sustainability and women’s football, said, “This is an important step for the development of women’s football in our member associations. Combining our efforts to develop this programme has brought clear benefits to everyone involved.”
“Football for Women has had a huge impact – increasing the number of women in football both on and off the pitch is a key priority of CONMEBOL and we look forward to implementing this programme in more of our member associations.”
Oceania Football Confederation (OFC): a new home for football
Two important projects have helped secure a bright future for Oceania’s 11 member associations. Last month, the Assist team was present for the inauguration of the OFC’s new headquarters, the Home of Football or Te Kahu o Kiwa, following significant financial support. The new facility in Auckland provides a new base for OFC staff, who are already enjoying their new home as well as two state-of-the-art synthetic pitches, which they believe will help to better prepare Oceania’s teams for top-level competition.
Assist has also shared the experience and know-how of European football’s educational arm, the UEFA Academy, to help launch OFC Learn – a new platform that provides critical e-learning support to more than 2,000 registered users, webinars for coach and referee development, and a registration platform for clubs, players and officials.
Franck Castillo, OFC general secretary, said, “Watching these projects come to life has been one of my highlights at OFC. Together, the Home of Football and OFC Learn will create many invaluable opportunities to develop players, coaches, officials and administrations across the region.”