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Final day drama began nine months ago

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Ben Gallop Ben Gallop | 15:58 UK time, Monday, 14 May 2007

It seems like a long time ago now, but on Saturday 19 August new-boys Sheffield United scored the first goal of the 2006-7 Premiership season. Rob Hulse's header earned them a hugely creditable 1-1 draw with mighty Liverpool in a lunchtime kick-off.

As we now know, despite the early promise, that result did not signal the start of a glorious campaign for the Blades and today their fans are contemplating an instant return to the Championship.

Indeed, the most portentous line from the live report that appeared on the BBC Sport website that day was probably a quote from United boss Neil Warnock about the dubious nature of Liverpool's penalty equaliser. "I think the referee made a mistake," he commented. "It leaves a sour taste."

That's a phrase from the very first day of the season that encapsulates the brooding sense of injustice that Warnock and his club were feeling on the very last day, albeit one that was now being directed at Premier League officials and the managers of Liverpool and Manchester United, rather than merely referee Rob Styles.

Neil Warnock looks on as his team are relegated from the PremiershipThis turnaround in Sheffield United's fortunes tells you something about the fickle nature of footballing fortunes, as well as indicating just how dramatic the season has been. The tussle between the top two and the shenanigans at the foot of the table have provided gripping theatre throughout. The 2006-7 Premiership has been a story we have felt privileged to bring you on the BBC Sport website.

Our plan for the season was to put more focus on our live coverage, increase the interactivity with the audience and enhance our audio-video offering. The BBC covers the Premiership and its clubs across a range of outlets, and our aim has been to showcase the best of that coverage online and via our mobile WAP site. I'd like to think our more ambitious approach this season has paid off - well the user figures would suggest so, anyway.

Putting aside any scepticism about data (and yes, I know all about lies, damned lies and audience statistics…) the growth in usage of over the season has been gratifying. Back in the autumn the website was attracting around 1.5m unique users every Saturday or Sunday. By March this daily figure had risen by around 33%, so that we are now consistently breaking 2m.

What's behind this audience growth? I'd clearly love it to simply be the result of our fantastic coverage chiming with football fans in the UK and around the world. But while I'm convinced our improved editorial package has played a part in this increased popularity (I would say that, wouldn't I?) I'm under no illusions that there are other forces at play here too.

For a start, the Premiership of 2006-7 has been a more compelling tale than the previous two seasons, with even more star players from around the world taking centre stage and a host of intriguing behind-the-scenes tussles providing some great copy.

But it's more than just an improved product pulling in the punters - we're also witnessing a significant development in audience patterns, as the media industry and people's leisure pursuits continue to evolve. The UK broadband market has exploded in the past year or so, and with that we've seen an increase in the numbers of people using the internet at home at the weekend. It's basically become more and more common for people to follow the football on the web, either via their PC or their mobile phone (and usage of our football WAP site continues to grow apace). Broadband has provided people with faster connectivity and an improved capability to watch video on the web and we've witnessed a big spike in the numbers accessing our post-match interviews with the Premiership managers.

And while the Premiership may now be over, the football season definitely isn't. We've got the Football League play-offs and the FA Cup and Champions League finals to come. But once we've put all those to bed it will be time to reflect on what we've done over the past nine months and think about how we can take things on again next season.

It will be a busy summer of reappraisal and, as ever, your views on how we can improve our output will be most welcome. Come August, everyone at the BBC Sport website will start the new season with renewed vigour for the challenge ahead.

And once he's licked his wounds, I am sure the same can be said for that great survivor, Neil Warnock...

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