The New Saints Chief Operating Officer Ian Williams attended the European Club Association (ECA) Youth Working Group at the AFC Ajax Amsterdam training centre yesterday.
Chaired by ECA Executive Board Member Edwin van der Sar, the Youth Working Group met for the first time of the new 2013-15 cycle. The 20 members, representatives of ECA Member Clubs, engaged in fruitful discussions in the unique setting of the renowned Ajax Academy “De Toekomst”. The Ajax Academy, which enrols about 240 young footballers, was one of the academies scrutinised and illustrated in the ECA Report on Youth Academies in Europe.
‘It was a wonderful experience’ commented Williams. ‘The facilities at AFC Ajax are unbelievable, they are the benchmark for any club who wants to develop talented young players’ he added. ‘The sharing of good practice and ideas with the group will certainly help in future discussions regarding academies in Wales, the FAW and the Welsh Football Trust have done a great deal of work to improve academy football in Wales, we can’t stand still though and with additional investment through the UEFA 3G Strategy across Wales and the continued success of our coach education programme, the provision for our young players can only get better’ he concluded.
The discussions at the Youth Working Group meeting focused on several key topics such as transfer matters, procedures regarding club academies and summer schools, the Home Grown Rule and the newly created UEFA Youth League. A particular attention was given to the topic related to the players’ transition from youth teams to first teams. Overall, interesting suggestions and proposals were made and will be further discussed at the next ECA Executive Board Meeting to take place in early December.
Edwin van der Sar, ECA Youth Working Group Chairman said: “It was a pleasure to host 20 experts from Youth Academies across Europe here at the Toekomst. To have them together has resulted in very interesting discussions, and it was a major opportunity to share knowledge and best practices in the area of Youth development. We will continue to investigate on youth policies, and share the outcomes to the benefit of all Member Clubs. As a former player but also as a member of the Ajax Amsterdam board of Directors, I am excited to share our knowledge with other specialists.”