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Chris Russell | 10:03 UK time, Thursday, 5 October 2006

Following the launch of our new 606 site and the closure of the old 606 message board, we are now planning a phased closure of message boards covering sport topics on bbc.co.uk. This will affect topics on the following sites – Fans Forum (Scottish football), Test Match Special (cricket), Scrum V (rugby union) and Five Live (all other sports).

These boards will be replaced by areas of the new site, which will continue to be closely aligned with existing programmes in Scotland and Wales as well as TV and radio output on Radio Five Live and BBC Sport. 606 is now designed to be for fans of all sports online and the radio programme, fresh from inviting calls about the Ryder Cup last week, is planning a number of cricket phone-ins for the winter’s Ashes series.

The new 606 site, which already has 10,000 registered members after just a fortnight of opening, offers a vastly improved platform for sports fans to interact with our programmes and services. The focus is on members creating higher quality content and debating with other fans in a safer and more pleasant environment. Our aim and objectives are

• To provide a richer, more in-depth user experience
• To raise the standard of contributions
• To reduce the amount of ephemeral, low-quality chat
• To make 606 more distinctive
• Raise expectations of users and of content

606 and football has always been our biggest community so many of you will be aware of the debate which has been going on in recent months. We have explained at length why we feel forum-style message boards are no longer part of the BBC’s remit in covering sport online. You can read a lot more on various posts on the BBC Sport Editors’ Blog, especially this one.
But this is a summary of our main reasons for change:

• There are message boards available for almost every sport on the world wide web, and we don’t believe that the BBC’s commitment to be distinctive in this area merits the vast expense that traditional message boards require. We want to use that same resource to offer something unique.

• While some of the message boards feature high quality content, they are still prone to people trying to annoy or provoke fellow users. Safeguards are in place on the new site to help prevent this, including a feature allowing users to remove comments posed on articles they have started.

• The new format offers interesting ways of people who play sport as well as watch it to share their experiences, and we will more easily add to the ways in which this can be done in the future (video, pictures etc) as we shift the focus away from message boards.

These changes will not be happening immediately. Some of the feedback we got from 606 was that we didn’t give enough warning and I think that is true. So we are publishing this news as soon as it has been agreed in the past few days jointly by BBC Sport, BBC Wales, BBC Scotland and BBC Radio Five Live.

Exact dates will be confirmed in the coming weeks but we are working towards the following provisional timetable:

• Fans Forum – closes at end of October 2006
• The England, Ireland, Scotland, Other Nations and Tri Nations topics on Scrum V close by start of November. A decision on the Wales topic of Scrum V is being taken by BBC Wales.
• Test Match Special – first week of November 2006
• Five Live topics for Rugby League, Tennis, Golf, Motorsport, Boxing, Athletics, Snooker, Horse Racing, Cycling, Disability Sport and Other Sport – end of November 2006

These dates are designed as much as possible to coincide with gaps in the relevant sport’s calendar. Apart from Scottish football, which is ongoing, there are no significant major events going at the time. Members have plenty of chance to move across before events such as the Ashes cricket tour or the autumn international rugby union, while we are also waiting until the end of seasons in rugby league and Formula One.

I know some of you will be upset at this news, but I do want to provide some assurances and explain new features which many will I am sure appreciate. While you can find some vocal criticism of the new format on 606 – and we’re not hiding from the need for improvement – there are many users actively creating terrific content on all the English football clubs.

On the new format the tag system of putting in your favourite team or sport allows many more communities to grow:

Cricket fans will be able to search for content according to their Test or county team, a feature only previously there for England fans
Rugby union fans will discover that all Premiership, Celtic league and international teams have similar searches
Rugby league fans will be able to find content for each Super League and international team
Motorsport fans will be able to search by different disciplines such as Formula One, rallying, motorbikes and the rest
• Fans of a vast new range of sports, previously bundled together on the Five Live other sport topic, will now be able to filter content according to their own interests.

You can create content for all these sports now, and in the next few weeks we will add the facility to write match and other event reports as well as profiles of teams and players for all the different sports. Even with no promotion and without this news, it’s great to see people are already writing already, for example, about golf.

We have one final promise for those of you who want the more traditional message board. We will allow you to paste links of any sites which pass the BBC's external linking guidelines on either the old site or the new. Our aim is to nurture alternatives to 606 as well as provide the high quality service we will offer.

As with all the changes we have made to message boards this year, we welcome your feedback here.

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