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Brentford keeper supports new social network for grassroots football

Brentford goalkeeper Richard Lee is putting his support behind Sporting Connect, a new social network designed to link all aspects of grassroots football in the United Kingdom.

The aim is to create a central hub for the wider football community – including coaches, players, referees, clubs, schools and leagues – to generate awareness, opportunities and access in a way that has never been done before.

For many years now, serious questions have been asked as to why the standard of football in the UK, especially at an international level, has failed to live up to its European counterparts.

Spanish football, by contrast, goes into this summer’s European Championships as World Champions and holders of the European crown, with FC Barcelona being, without doubt, the world’s strongest club side.

Spain was thought to be in a similar position to England and the rest of the UK not so long ago.

So where are we going wrong?

One of the problems commonly argued is the lack of, or lack of accessibility to, elite football coaches to influence the standard of coaching on offer to young individuals. In Spain there are 17 players for every qualified coach. In England there are 812.

On June 1, 2010, The Guardian published an article with these findings and, based on the statistics, the question of whether England can ever expect to produce quality footballers and compete on the world stage has been widely debated.

By creating Sporting Connect, two men motivated to do their part – one amateur and one professional footballer – have taken it upon themselves to improve access to coaching, refereeing, schools, leagues, clubs and players at the very grassroots level of the game.

Whether you are a coach looking for work, a Sunday league club searching for a last minute referee or a player moving to a new area of the country and in need of a team, you will be able to find what you need with the familiar ease of a social network.

On the Sporting Connect site, any one of the aforementioned parties can set up a simple free profile to advertise themselves, their goals, their qualifications and their experience, and begin to network with others in the same way you would do on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Sporting Connect aims to incorporate the successes of all three of these social networks by also providing Twitter-like news feeds, status updates, profile embellishment and the opportunity to provide references for and from others.

Rob Lovesey, the amateur footballer who founded Sporting Connect, said: “Our aim is to improve the standard of individuals, and ultimately the quality of football in the UK as a whole, by enabling further opportunities and access for all individuals in the game.

“Our social network hopes to improve an individual’s knowledge and experience, through both learning and sharing, and hopes to go some way towards fulfilling the personal development and aspirations of anyone and everyone in football.”

Vision

Lovesey’s vision has begun to attract interest from top coaches, players and companies in both the amateur and professional game. Lee, club captain and long-standing keeper at Brentford, liked it so much that he decided to use it as a platform for his entrepreneurial ambitions and became a director.

Lee experienced a deep rooted problem first hand whilst trying to find goalkeeper coaches for his other venture, GK Icon – a goalkeeping school dedicated to coaching goalkeepers all over the world.

He said: “As the months passed, it soon became apparent that finding 18 goalkeeping coaches wasn't as easy as I had thought it would be. It took countless phone calls, calling in many a favour and cutting it incredibly fine before we finally assigned the 18th coach just a matter of days before our launch.

“How could it have been so difficult to find 18 coaches out of the 1000's of qualified goalkeeper coaches in the UK?”

Lee added: “What we need is a social networking site to bring all of them together and provide simple, one-step access to the many individuals all over the country desperate to involve themselves in the grassroots game.”

The Sporting Connect website aims to be launched in early April 2012. To find out more, go to www.sportingconnect.blogspot.co.uk or www.sportingconnect.com


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