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A funny old game...

Alex Gubbay Alex Gubbay | 13:10 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008

Has there ever been a crazier week in football?

After a summer of spectacular live sport, with the Euros, Wimbledon and especially the Olympics, it needed something pretty stunning to jolt us back into sports news mode.

But the last few days have certainly done that - not least for our editorial team - and for everyone else too, judging by the traffic we've had to the website in recent days.

On their own, any of the big stories from transfer deadline day, the surprise takeover at Man City, Kevin Keegan's second departure from Newcastle and Alan Curbishley leaving West Ham would dominate our agenda.

Robinho unveiled to the press

But the fact they all happened at pretty much the same time, and are indeed all part of the wider story about the changing face of top-flight football, has made it an extra challenge in terms of coverage this week.

There are many critics of transfer deadline day inside the game - and I thought Mike Ingham made a decent argument on 5 Live Sport on Wednesday when he said that instead of creating periods of calm when clubs can plan without fear of losing key players, it has done almost the exact opposite.

Issues at Newcastle and West Ham ultimately came to a head on Tuesday, with the transfer window the catalyst for disputes between the managers and their boards that might otherwise have festered for longer under the surface.

And clearly, Man City's prospective Arab owners wanted to do whatever business was possible before the window closed, with their late flurry of sensational bids sparking great speculation and ultimately forcing through, in different ways, the headline deals of Robinho and Berbatov.

For us on the website, that drama saw us get our highest-ever audience figures outside the record numbers we set during the Olympics just a fortnight earlier, with nearly 4 million users visiting our site on both Monday and Tuesday.
Our live transfer deadline-day commentary notched a staggering 18m page views - with nearly 20,000 related comments on 606, and a similar number interacting by text message.

Of course, a lot of the interest was generated by gossip from fans on which players had supposedly been spotted where, and who they were about to sign for. For us, the key is to make sure we engage with that banter and sense of fun, while at the same time also making absolutely clear what we know to be factual reliable information, as distinct from any gossip.

Contrast that then with the story we ran on Tuesday afternoon - based on good sources - saying Keegan had left Newcastle.

When the club later claimed he had not been sacked, and it emerged from the League Managers Association that the two parties were talking, some of you questioned what we had reported, and suggested we had been presumptious to do so if it wasn't 'fact'.

Newcastle United fans

While his eventual departure on Thursday doesn't of itself justify our coverage from Tuesday, I'd hope it does reassure you about what you should always be able to expect from us at the BBC.

In our sports news coverage, we aim to be as objective, balanced and factual as possible. And at times, that does mean asking you as our audience to trust us when we say 'we understand' something to be the case, even if seemingly more official parties like a club, or agent, say something to the contrary.

We don't do that lightly, and never base that on rumour or other media reports.
When we do say it, it's always when our reporters or sources justify it - as they did on Tuesday.

Equally, with such fast-moving stories, situations can change quickly from one hour to the next.
Only those few at the very heart of a saga like the one at St James' Park ever know the exact detail of every development.
But it was clear to us that those talks did not mean Keegan had returned, nor necessarily that he hadn't actually left.
In fact, and as it indeed turned out, those talks were always more likely to be about the eventual terms of the split, rather than any reconciliation.

In terms of how we relay all that information to you though, there are I'm sure ways that we can keep improving.

Whether you think what has happened over the last few days has been good or bad for the game, or fair on the individuals involved, it has been utterly compelling to follow.

And our duty at the BBC Sport website is to keep you as informed, up to date and engaged as possible with all the news as it happens.

So if you think there are ways we can do that even more effectively - perhaps more video, maybe more live text updates on breaking stories like with the transfer deadline, or even more football gossip (our gossip column remains one of our most popular pages each day) - then by all means let me know...


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Alex, Whilst we all enjoy the existing content, I would like to see more serious in depth analysis, especially of international opponents. There were many such comments after Chick Young's last submission, and Phil McNulty took a bit of stick as well.
    When we're playing smaller nations there are plenty of readers who appreciate articles like the one that has been added today on Macedonia.
    In general though, I think you're running the most comprehensive service on the web. Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 2.

    I for one would like to see a higher quality of writing from BBC Sport.

    It's hard to precisely put my finger on what the problem is without ranting for 300 words (as I did in Phil McNulty's blog the other day), but I essentially would like to see opinion pieces actually carrying opinions, rather than stating what we all already know.

    If these pieces are intended purely to spark debate, it would be nice if they were marked as such, in the vein of the Have Your Say section on the main BBC News site.

    Just a thought.

  • Comment number 3.

    Have to agree with gillsfan1978, the BBC site is excellent compared to most of the drivel out there, but there's a real lack of in-depth anaylsis, as there is on BBC TV for that matter. Nobody really says anything new. Alan Hansen trots out the same old cliches on TV as he does on this site.

    And I also agree with gills that educating the fans, who will no doubt rant and rave when England struggle to beat Kazakhstan and Belarus, would be a good idea if only to help keep the national team's performances in perspective.

    Oh, and this is a side issue, but site navigation still leaves a lot to be desired. It still feels like lots of sites welded together. Finding the Sport section from some parts of the site - TV for example - requires you to go to the home page first. Plus these blogs/comments pages - sometimes you can review your comments prior to submission, sometimes you can't. It doesn't make sense. The website structure needs looking at.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree. There is a need for more high quality analysis on the site.

    You do a very good job of reporting the facts (and where appropriate rumours) and the informal nature of these blogs are a good accompanyment.

    Having seen the coverage of the olympics, including many very good articles both pre-event (event descriptions, previews, athlete profiles etc.) and post-event (analysis of what the cyclists did right etc.); we now know that your team is more than capable of writing this kind of article. So it owuld be good to see more of this in the future.

    As already stated, a detailed article about international opponents would be good, as would perhaps a weekly/fortnightly column that looks at how a team is playing tactically, explaining the formatin, how it can work in different ways, why it works (or doesnt) with the players at that club and so on. Perhaps for the FA cup you could offer some detail into past meetings between clubs and the history of smaller clubs involved.

    This is just football of course, there is so much that can be done with other sports also.

  • Comment number 5.

    I would also like to stick my oar in - I like the BBC coverage, the Olympics was a great success and the thorough coverage put any other international media to shame (see NBC ditching about 12 disciplines despite sending a crew of 3000 people, with adverts every 7 minutes)

    And the football is of course comprehensive - and I don't really take issue with the Keegan mishap, few broadcasters hold their hands-up and admit something, or actually criticise themselves, so I still have faith in the Beeb

    However what I do struggle with, as the other commentators have echoed, is the blog network - I never know where I am, 606 has been improved by taking out the features and putting them into a blog network but it's quite hard to navigate that - you have to find the right author, or it has to be recent, or on the front page - obviously this isn't too bad for something like nick robinson, but i usually end up going into his blog to find any of the others in the network, or I just go to the newest feature on the football site and then clicking my own account to find the thread i was following

    it also mixes with the politics and business blogs and 'have your say' - which is a completely different set-up, and an awful service in itself (I hate HYS with a passion)

    I also agree with some of the comments about the analysis offered on the football site, McNulty in particular offers little but a discussion ground - he says nothing more than an average fan down the pub - I have no real problem with that, if it is meant to be a 606 style debate with Alan Green, but I don't think it is intended to be that - it's meant to be an insider's opinion, an expert's voice - but it uses little insider knowledge, or any facts that the average fan wouldn't know - like some have said; the article on Macedonia was interesting, far more interesting than a column about why it was a mistake to drop Owen, which is a general discussion, not a feature

    also the spelling - some of it isn't stuff that would get through a spellchecker - granted it's more the news site that does it, but still - quality control, people

  • Comment number 6.

    oh yeah, also do like the live texts with cheese and stevo - and the general informal, banter nature of the football site is good

  • Comment number 7.

    Has there ever been a crazier week in football?


    I think there was this one week in May 2005, that began with Arsenal winning the FA Cup via a penalty shootout (despite Man U's 57 shots on goal in playing time). It then went on to see Liverpool claim the Champions League a few days later, after going 3-0 down in the first half.

    Some would say THAT was a pretty crazy week...

  • Comment number 8.

    I love the site

    However I find it a bit of a pain when I keep re reading the same articles with different titles

    As other people have alluded to their is often a lack of depth, and I find myself looking at sites like the Telegraph for such articles.

  • Comment number 9.

    One sport that you completely ignore is Ironman and long course Triathlon. We have the current womens world champion in both of these and yet not a mention anywhere on the bbc.

    Chrissie Wellington won the World Championships in the long course Traithlon last weekend ( 4 km swim 120 km bike 30 km run)
    She hasn't been beaten since winning the world championship Ironman in kona Hawaii last year and is now getting ready to defend it in 6 weeks time, thats 11/10/08 just on the off chance you might decide to give it a little coverage.
    She is a class act do some research on ironman and triathon websites or forums and you'll hear nothing but good things for this extrordinary athlete.

    Again just to say she's british.

  • Comment number 10.

    I heartily echo the above comments - more analytical and opinionated football articles are in desperate need to add an intellectual element to the website.

    Think more coverage of other European leagues - i.e. a weekly column from Italy or Spain like the one from South America which is hugely popular - and also tactics. Numerous football magazines and tv shows have extensive debate on tactics - both in-match and in general - because readers and watchers are interested in this under-stated part of the game.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hello Alex,

    I am a loyal Manchester United supporter from India.

    I have to say that I am addicted to BBC Sport, I can go a week without Orkut but a day without BBC Sport seems like a month.

    Your website is the most credible. I do surf plenty of other websites but for me it's not news until it is on BBC Sport.

    At work I check BBC Sport intermittently (probably every hour) to see if there are any updates, especially in Football and Cricket.

    However I am unable to load a few pages like Funny Old Game, Blogs, Quotes of the Week, 606 etc at work because of our internal 'Surf Control'. They block certain websites if there are word such as 'blog', 'game' etc in the URL but any page that has 'News' in it's URL is permissible.

    So, my humble request is for you to change the URL of these pages excluding terms such as 'blog', 'games' with 'News'

    I know at least a dozen others who have the same problem.

    I hope that you can do something about this.


  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think the BBC needs to restructure its website...this crazy week as seen News (whaetevr it is) sprayed everywhere on the website while the major story gets centre stage.
    The BBC need to have football stories linked to one page only and have 1 major story from every sport...not football taking up 7 links on the sport homepage!

  • Comment number 14.

    I sometimes wonder why the editors post blogs, what with all the wannabe journos that come on here and abuse you all. There's some very bitter people out there

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks all for your comments and feedback.

    In terms of football analysis, hopefully you've seen what we've started doing each Monday with Lee Dixon, and this week with Mark Lawrenson:

    ManUtdIndia, sounds to me like you need to have a word with 'Surf Control'... I'm afraid we can't change the site structure just for you!

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Funnier weeks? Yes. Weeks where money spoke more loudly? No.
    I'm not a supporter of a Premiership aside, but to see Curbishley ushered aside and Keegan (for all his faults a man to whom most fans can relate) pushed aside were both bewildering.
    first Chelsea and now Man City become the richest club sides in the world. Good luck to them. I hope their fans enjoy the ride, just as Blackburn fans rode the Jack Walker roller coaster 15 years ago.
    Perhaps times don't really change. Money always talks. It's just that the number of noughts on the end is increasing.
    Just wait until another oil baron or software billionaire declares a devotion to Morecambe - and a transfer kitty to match.
    PS - does anyone know any Premiership players who want some light bulbs changing? Say £200 a time?

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm an avid fan of the 'old' Forest......where are they going and what is happening to them.... We had a 'wire brushing' from Wolves they other week...have we tried too hard against Reading at the start of the season and as burnt ourselves out against Keano's boys from Sunderland...Where are we going???? Can the 'wee' Scottish Lad pull it off and keep us in the Championship for next season...?????


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