Eredivisie Clubs visit Liga Portugal Youth Academies under EPFL flag

EPFL/Eredivisie Delegation at Liga Portugal HQ

A delegation led by the EPFL CEO Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros and the Eredivisie CEO Frank Rutten and composed by Eredivisie Club experts in youth development from Feyenoord Rotterdam, AFC Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar and SC Heerenveen visited the Youth Academies of the most prestigious Portuguese sides, namely SL Benfica, Sporting CP and FC Porto, on 23rd to 25th January 2012.

This initiative co-organised with Eredivisie and supported by Liga Portugal, falls under the EPFL’s strategic objective of fostering football’s long-term interests by promoting the training and development of youth players and the protection of training clubs. 

This Field Visit was aimed to share and discuss the highest standards and best practiced in the field of Youth Development in Portugal and the Netherlands, such as:

  • The organisation of Youth and Training Programmes (i.e. structures, responsibilities, facilities, services to players and families);
  • The recruitment of young players;
  • Loan practices of young players to minor clubs (with focus to the applicable rules, restrictions, general practices in Portugal and Europe);
  • The improvement of the quality of players which enter in the clubs’ training programmes;
  • The certification of Academies and Training Programmes;
  • The collaboration with other Professional Clubs at European and World levels;
  • The implementation Special Youth Programmes run by the Clubs in collaboration with Liga Portugal, FPF (the Portuguese FA), and Local Communities (School/Educational projects); and
  • Further collaborations in this field among Portuguese and Dutch Clubs as well as between the Liga Portugal and Eredivisie

Field Visit to FC Porto Youth Academy

“This visit has given me a wonderful insight on how Portuguese football is organised and how clubs such as Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto work, what their infrastructure is like and how the youth programs are designed. Besides the warm and open welcome I was very impressed by the infrastructure, organization and philosophy of youth training at these three clubs, and is was remarkable to see the vast differences in their approach� expressed Robert Veenstra, SC Heerenveen Managing Director.

Toon Gerbrands, AZ Alkmaar CEO also highlighted the value of such an initiative: “In Portugal I have gained many new ideas for AZ. In particular the flow of youth to the top, the way school and training are combined and the infrastructure of youth academies will help us further. This benchmark is a must for all professional football leagues. My advice: let everyone visit one another and share knowledge.”

Sporting CP Youth Academy

“The program that EPFL has presented was very compact making the whole visit very useful to me. The presentations given by the clubs were great. My compliments to the EPFL for organising these visits�, stated Marcel Brands, Sporting Director of PSV Eindhoven.

Feyenoord CEO Eric Gudde expressed: “a very, very meaningful trip owing to the sharing of knowledge and the exchange of good practises. In particular learning things where clubs differ, for instance, on their training philosophy, which makes the experience very valuable. Not only Dutch clubs but also the Portuguese clubs, who hosted us very well, can eventually gain with meetings like these”.

“It’s always good to share know-how with such a prestigious group, having in mind that these representatives came from an important reality like the Dutch one.  In FC Porto we believe that these kinds of events are decisive to develop clubs and to develop the game itself. In FC Porto we look to the formation with special attention, because it’s a fundamental issue in the future of world football. On other hand, we truly believe that the contact with other cultures, methods and approaches to football will enhance our point of view and add new power to our progression. This meeting was very interesting. And, most important of all, we and our guests decided to go further in the exchange of experience in future discussions and visits’ said Luis Castro, FC Porto Youth Technical Director.

Furthermore, during the two-day field visit, the EPFL/Eredivisie delegation had the opportunity to meet the Secretary of State for Sports of Portugal Alexandre Mestre with the purpose of addressing important issues related to Youth Development Sport Policies and the promotion of appropriate forms of cooperation between the various sports stakeholders and institutional organisations.

EPFL/Eredivisie Delegation at SL Benfica Youth Academy.

The Field Visit concluded with a meeting and reception at the Headquarters of the Portuguese League in Porto, on 25th January. By thanking the EPFL and Dutch League for the enriching initiative, the Liga Portugal President Mário Figueiredo stated: “This meeting, aimed to exchange experiences, let the Dutch league learn from the Portuguese reality in training of young players, reserve teams, and competitive frameworks. In return, Eredivisie shared with us their successful experience in the marketing of TV rights”. On the occasion, the Eredivisie CEO invited the Portuguese executives to visit the Netherlands during the month of February.

“With great interest we have noticed that the clubs we visited all maintain their own style and approach within their organizations. Especially when it comes to the subject of five Portuguese youth teams playing in the second division next season, we feel this is very interesting to consider adapting in our own competitions. We look back on an interesting and very useful field visit and like to thank the clubs and Portuguese League for their hospitality� stated Frank Rutten, CEO Eredivisie.

Emanuel Medeiros concluded: “It was an extremely productive visit, which has made the initial steps for deepening cooperation and development among these organisations. I am confident that there will be further occasions to exchange experiences on issues such as training, reserve teams or marketing of television rights.”

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