2021 was not the most straightforward for the reigning champions of England. The pandemic as very restricting, and along with the changes brought about by Brexit caused IBB Polonia London many big headaches all year. The team found a way to compete and to try to realise the targets on European courts and domestically. Thanks to dogged determination, The Club made huge strides forward.
An improved quality was seen amongst the squad as well as on a marketing and business basis and many strategic targets were achieved. The Club is becoming a centre for sporting interest as well as business investment and 2021 can be seen as successful in terms of attracting new partners and sponsors. Thanks to the various partners, but specifically its strategic sponsors IBB Builders Merchants, the team was able to compete in the most prestigious competition in Europe, and through this continue to popularise volleyball in the UK as well as promoting Polish/English sport. The involvement of British television was a new initiative and saw matches broadcast on BT Sport which attracted new viewers and fans and continued to build the IBB Polonia London trademark.
Matches were forbidden in the UK until September 2021, but IBB Polonia London used the opportunity to develop its Pro Volley Academy, which is one of its key objectives. The coaches of the men’s team also coached at the Pro Volley Academy, and even during total lockdown, continued sued their sessions via Zoom sessions online. The effect of this was the development of the young players and their incorporation into the first team once games started. A number of their best talents were also called up to the England training squad.
The Club continued to build a squad for the new year and competed for the third time in the CEV Champions’ League. For the first time in its history, The Club recruited fully professional players, but because of Brexit, these players were not legally allowed to play in England. The solution, once again, was the relocation of the entire playing and coaching squad to Bełchatów, Poland. Thanks to the super generous partners PGE Skra Bełchatów, the squad spent three months in Poland preparing for CEV competition. A double match was played in the first round of the CEV Champions’ League, but the squad was unable to beat Soligorsk from Belarus. This resulted in moving to a different CEV competition, but thanks to Brexit and also a lack of cooperation from CEV, matches could not be organised in England which resulted in a walkover for the opposition. Only a single match was played against Orion Doetinchem which was another defeat and with that the end of European competition happened. On a positive note, competition was permitted once again in England, and the start of the season was 100% positive in terms of results. The aim of the season is to give maximum exposure to the youth players from Pro Volley Academy in the senior team playing Super League volleyball.
Despite the lack of success in Europe, IBB Polonia London has continued to evolve and as 2021 ends, 2022 begins with huge optimism and enthusiasm.
pic. Paweł Piotrowski