London, England, May 22, 2014. Two years on from successfully hosting the London 2012 Olympic Games in which Volleyball and Beach Volleyball were two of the most popular sports, Volleyball players and fans in England were able to enjoy the first-ever all-star match, with both British men and women defeating their international counterparts by 3:1.
Peter Bakare and Nathan French were two of Great Britain’s stars at London 2012 and helped drive the initiative that took place at the University of East London’s SportsDock Arena, along with Mark Kontopolous, Managing Director of sports promotion company SideOut and head coach of London Polonia Club.
“After the Olympic Games in London two years ago, Volleyball lost all its funding from the British government, so in order to keep promoting the discipline, we have to organize events ourselves,” French said.
Volleyball’s popularity has increased despite the loss of funding following London 2012 and SideOut was founded in 2011 to help grow the sport by developing coaches and managers in all age groups.
“We have noticed a big interest in our events and training camps since the Olympic Games in 2012,” said Kontopoulos. “The National League relies on teams to fund themselves, but hopefully events like this all-star game will bring attention from potential sponsors. We already have the support of many companies and Volleyball England provided the flooring for the match and uniforms for our volunteers as well. Thanks to SGTV, a TV production company, the match was aired on Sky Sports.”
The growing interest in Volleyball has been harnessed by English age-group teams, while there have been a number of Beach Volleyball events around London landmarks such as Canary Wharf and Covent Garden and in June the beach side town of Bournemouth will host a 2014-2016 CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup tournament.
There are plans to continue the all-star match in the future. Kontopoulos added: “It is a great moment for all sports disciplines now in Great Britain, we just need to take everything we can out of it.”