The return of the Premier League at the weekend was a reminder of what an all-consuming business it has become. Supporters spend thousands to follow their team, clubs throw millions at players and broadcasters invest billions to grab a share of the TV rights.
But what do the clubs do to serve the digital needs of their fans on match day?
Live blogs, match centres, text commentaries or minute-by-minutes – call them what you will – have become a staple part of the digital diet for sporting events. We asked live blogging experts LiveWire Sport to assess what the clubs do on the day of the big game.
Much like on the field of play, there is a big gulf in class between what Premier League clubs offer online, particularly on match days when most sites would expect to see a big spike in their traffic.
We have broken the clubs down into title contenders, European challengers, mid-table mediocrity and relegation strugglers.
Arsenal fans may be upset by a chronic lack of spending on new players, but they’ve clearly invested some time and money in a decent looking match centre – though surely there are tweets other than ‘C’mon Arsenal’ they could use during a match day?
Having a guest tweeter for the day is a top idea and the look is bolstered by icons, embedded tweets and good tie-in with Arsenal’s match day show presenters. Now it’s just the first-team squad that needs bolstering…
Plenty to see here as the Reds squeeze a live text commentary, Opta stats, line-ups, fixtures and a league table plus their LFC TV player all on one (long) page. There’s a lot of scrolling up and down to keep track of everything but plenty of content all in the same place.
There is some good integration of tweets from fans and journalists and there is lots of pre-match build-up content, though not much after the game (they are not alone there). They also have separate audio commentaries and live photos elsewhere on the site.
They may have lost their Premier League crown to local rivals United last season, but when it comes to the digital world Manchester City consistently lead the way in the UK.
Their new match centre, powered by the new Liveplayer platform, is the latest slick piece of kit to be rolled out to their fans. Fully responsive, audio pop-up, stats, live table, social feed, photos all housed in one place and easily the best text commentary on offer by Premier League clubs, with curated tweets, vines, behind-the-scenes photos and some engaging pre-match build-up and fan interaction throughout. In this case, the noisy neighbours really do have plenty to shout about.
The Black Cats might have disappointed their fans on the pitch on Sunday, but this footballing cloud certainly has a digital silver lining with a Match Day Centre that offers Sunderland supporters plenty of good value.
There’s your usual text commentary, but integrated nicely with highlights, a social feed, line-ups, Opta stats & live scores/table – all within one clean and easily navigable console. There’s also live audio – though if you missed all this on Saturday, it’s probably just as well.
Spurs looked super-slick for much of their opening day win even without Gareth Bale, and their digital offering produced a similarly impressive showing right from the start – when you click ‘enter site’ from the splash page, it takes you STRAIGHT to the match centre rather than the normal homepage, so there’s no messing around there.
Once inside there’s plenty going on and there’s a nice look and feel to the match day page. The text commentary is full of snappy updates and there are two more tabs with player stats and a man of the match vote, though the latter is rather superfluous for much of the day as it doesn’t kick in until full-time. On the right-hand side there’s a pitch with the formations and an option for match stats, with the league table below. Only some photos & interaction away from being hugely impressive.
Much like Villa’s opening day win at Arsenal, their digital offering is full of surprises – though as at the Emirates on Saturday it didn’t start well with an unnecessary extra click from the homepage needed and it’s not a particularly great mobile experience.
But once you get to the live match console there’s plenty to keep you occupied, with full match preview, stats and line-ups, a live blog, scores & tables and photos too. The blog started at 8am and continues through the weekend, taking in player tweets on Saturday evening and media coverage on Sunday too.
Chelsea promote their live match centre on the right-hand side of the homepage, rather than the main news area, where your eye is immediately drawn to. A bit like hiding Jose Mourinho in the laundry basket. Once you’ve found it, there’s live chat, match stats/line-ups and a Flickr photo feed from Stamford Bridge, as well as scores and a table. The live chat is conducted inside a Cover It Live template which adds another layer, and it’s a bit confusing to follow with updates from the writers of the blog, Chelsea’s twitter feed and fans – without much of an editorial flow. You can also listen to the game on Chelsea TV, but it’s not especially prominent.
A promising start for Roberto Martinez in the Goodison hotseat and a very encouraging start digitally for Everton, with an impressive smorgasbord of content for Toffees fans to get stuck into, including a live text, stats, scores, photos and formations, as well as good promotion of video and live audio.
There’s also a tagboard of tweets using the hashtag #EFCNCFC, which not only looks snazzy but is a great way to encourage fans to get involved. Only two minor blemishes: firstly, surely the hashtag has to have home team first?; and secondly, it would be superb if there was one central match day page to bring the best of all the other parts together, instead of having to constantly click around the site.
Fulham picked up three points at Sunderland with a well-marshalled defensive display, but digitally they went on the attack with excellent promotion of their match centre on Saturday, with score and text commentary front and centre on their homepage.
The tabs – match stats, team line-ups, player head-to-heads, text commentary & photo gallery – offered a wide selection of content and Fulham are one of only a few clubs to let fans listen to audio commentary from inside the match centre. Shame there’s no social media involvement in the match centre, but that’s a rare downside.
Hull will be hoping to make a splash on their return to the Premier League, but their splash-less homepage was a disappointment on their big day back in the top flight on Sunday.
The homepage advertised a ‘minute-by-minute’ during the 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, accompanied by a photo from the game. But it looks housed on a news article template and was in need of some interaction and images to bring the day to life.
Does Wayne Rooney want a new challenge? Or is simply looking for a club that can compete with the very best when it comes to a digital match day offering?
United launched on Twitter and Instagram before the season to much fanfare, but their new live blog isn’t much of a match centre in truth. The text updates are simply that – there’s a bit of team news in the build-up, but no social media involvement, no engagement with fans and you need to manually refresh the page to see the latest entry. There’s a link to live audio, but all-round you’d expect a lot more from a club of United’s standing.
An uneasy start to the season for the Magpies on the pitch and their live match service could possibly do with a few tweaks before they can think about competing with the division’s big guns. It’s well promoted on the homepage, but having two different live text commentaries running in three separate places seems as confusing as the appointment of Joe Kinnear.
On a positive note there are stats, line-ups, table and scores, a tab for photos (although without any images in during the match), an audio feed for those who sign up and even a half-time report.
Also a slightly confusing user experience as there seem to be two options that house similar content: a pretty standard Cover it Live page offering minute-by-minute updates but also a version of the same content in a live match viewer page.
It is very text heavy and the grey background is only broken up by comments from fans. Updates are regular and there’s a decent pre-match build-up, along with manually added line-ups and scoreboard. And well done to the Stoke writer for consistently responding to fans’ questions and turning it into a conversation wherever possible.
Swansea have earned a reputation for playing some of the most attractive football in the league, but their live match service is not the most pleasing on the eye.
Their live blog versus Manchester United was little more than a rolling match report with infrequent updates, no datestamps or auto refresh, and no sign of a photo or interaction to be seen anywhere. Plenty room for improvement.
The Baggies were second best all afternoon long against a superb Southampton side, and 80 minutes into the match – just before Rickie Lambert scored Saints’ winner – the top story on their homepage was for team news from the Hawthorns.
There is a live blog done through a CiL window, which kind of makes it look like you’re peering into something from the outside rather than actually being a part of the West Brom match day experience. Much like Stoke’s it’s a bit text heavy and difficult to follow at times, though there is plenty of content.
West Ham’s live page is well promoted from the homepage once you get past the splash, but essentially it isn’t a live page at all; rather a news template being used to do live match updates. A bit like asking the tea lady to play left-back.
It’s very text heavy – in fact, from start (1.20pm) to finish (full-time – why no post-match quotes, tweets or analysis?) it is 3,800+ words long, with only three pictures to break up the text and no social media interaction or engagement (just the odd mention of Twitter competitions or Facebook content). No stats, no scores from around the grounds and no sign of a league table. The Hammers are one of the few clubs, however, to have any sponsor activation – though even that is a bit of a token gesture.
Cardiff will hope that their squad is ready for a first season in the Barclays Premier League, but their digital offering doesn’t quite seem to be just yet.
There was no live match centre anywhere to be seen on Saturday during their 2-0 defeat at West Ham, with a match preview/quotes story leading their homepage from 3-5pm and only live audio signifying that there was actually a game taking place – a real shame they couldn’t cover their first in the top flight since 1962 in greater detail.
Palace probably got promoted to the top flight sooner than anyone at Selhurst Park thought possible, so it’s only to be expected that their digital output is maybe not quite Premier League quality yet.
There was no sign of a live blog anywhere during their Premier League return at home to Spurs on Sunday – the top story while the match was in progress was team news.
The Canaries rarely have a problem selling out on match days at Carrow Road, but they need to start catering for their supporters who can’t make it to the stadium on a regular basis – and the fans who don’t travel to away games.
There was no text commentary on their 2-2 thriller at home to Everton, instead the website promoted their live audio. Time to give Ricky van Wolfswinkel & co the digital platform they deserve, eh Delia?
Once you’re past the splash page the Saints live page is well promoted on the homepage but it’s certainly not as impressive a digital performance as the one the first team put together at West Brom on Saturday.
The live page looks like a standard news article template, with infrequent updates on the match, a list of the line-ups and then a separate Twitter widget crowbarred in at the bottom of the page. Having broken their transfer record twice this summer, you might expect something a little sexier.