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Join In ambassador Ann Davis reckons a link up between the Olympic legacy charity and the Essex County FA's 'Squad Booster' player and volunteer recruitment service has arrived at the perfect time, following a Sport England report into concerning participation statistics.
Sport England recently revealed that many sports have faced challenges in maintaining their figures since the excitement of London 2012. Football is one of those but Ann, who spoke as the County FA released the latest digest of classified adverts from local clubs and teams, is confident that a corner can be turned.
She commented: "My colleagues at Join In think this relationship is a brilliant idea, and we welcome such partnerships. It's an excellent model which hopefully others will adopt. This will make more people aware of who we are and what we do. Hopefully this will result in more people using our website at www.joininuk.org to find opportunities to volunteer and to get involved, not only in football but in all grassroots sports."
"Essex's clubs, and everyone involved with them, will benefit from this partnership, which will encourage more people to get involved in football either as volunteers or as participants… or both! The news recently tells us that sports participation has dropped in the past few years. Let's change that!"
In June at the annual England Football Day festival for FA Charter Standard Clubs, an official link was made between Squad Booster and Join In for the benefit of both parties. The Essex County FA agreed to help raise the profile of the charity, with potential extra leverage of club's adverts for players and volunteers in return.
Teams currently use the classified listings on the County FA's website or the #SquadBooster hashtag on Twitter to promote vacancies to thousands of potential new faces, with full social media backing including a presence on Facebook. Join In works to encourage more people to get into sport, developing relationships with clubs to help them create a profile on their website so they can recruit volunteers if needed.
Essex clubs using Squad Booster are from all levels of adult male, adult female, boys' and girls' football and Soccability, and it's not just for players as there are opportunities to assist off the pitch, too. Previous volunteers have gained useful entries for their CV, which have helped them to gain employment.
Ann added: "Join In produced a brilliant research report last year called 'Hidden Diamonds' which shows how beneficial it is to be a volunteer - it really is good for you! We can make sure clubs' adverts reach a much wider audience. This can only increase their chances of getting new blood into their clubs. We do this through social media and by creating a profile for them on our website."
Once a Squad Booster form is completed and returned to firstname.lastname@example.org, an entry is created and published in the appropriate category of the online portal. That team's local Football Development Officer is also informed. Each month, a digest of all the latest adverts is collated and placed on the County FA's home page and promoted on Twitter (@EssexCountyFA) and Facebook (EssexFootball).
In addition, the adverts in this digest are sent to 200+ media contacts around the county and publicised with individual tweets and Facebook updates later that month. Further down the line, each team is contacted to see how the advert performed, to establish if it needs to be republished. Extra Squad Booster adverts can be found using the #SquadBooster hashtag on Twitter.
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