Bantr, a British startup, has launched a beta version of its social network devoted to soccer, just in time for the 2011 season’s kick-off.

Things didn’t quite turn out as expected, unfortunately. Aug. 9 was to have seen the first round in the Carling Cup tournament, but authorities are rescheduling many games as police resources are being allocated to deal with the civil unrest that broke out in London.

Soccer – known as football or “footie” in the U.K. – is a national obsession. It’s not just there, either. The sport’s governing body FIFA reports more than a billion people worldwide watched the men’s 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands on television.

Bantr was inspired by the clutter of topics on most social networks. “Bantr is a social network for football fans, a place to banter with your mates, a place where your football chat won’t be mixed with mum’s pictures of her dog or your sister talking about Justin Bieber,” said CEO Peter McCormack.

The service allows fans to do things like pick their team, check-in to live matches, vote on the action, view live match stats, and chat with other fans. Many features are designed to encourage participation during games to enhance the viewing experience. For example, live conversations can be filtered so that users can follow what’s being said by everyone at a particular match or by fans of one specific team.

Bantr chose to launch its beta without much funding, just £200,000 ($300,000) in seed funding from private angel investors.

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