Why Are Premier League Club Websites So Awful?

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When was the last time you visited the official web site of your favorite Premier League club? If you’re honest, the answer is pretty seldom. There’s a reason for that. Sixty percent of the sites are developed and maintained by one company, Perform.

Perform is more commonly known as Premium TV. The latter was acquired by Access Industries in 2007 and then merged with the Inform Group to create Perform. Sadly, though, whether it was as Premium TV or, nowadays, Perform, the web sites are terrible. They’re cookie-cutter sites that almost all look identical, feature splash pages (which were big on the Internet about 10 years ago) and offer very reasons, if any, for die-hard supporters to visit the web site of their club they support.

A handful of clubs have realized how piss poor the Premium TV/Perform templates are and have broken out of that shell by working with different agencies to create better websites. The web sites for Arsenal, Everton, Fulham and Sunderland are designed by Ripple Effect. Juicy created Portsmouth FC‘s web site. Tottenham‘s web site was created by Bluhalo, while Manchester United’s site was created and is managed by IMG Media.

The two major exceptions to the rule are the club websites for Manchester City and Liverpool. More about them later.

While the Perform websites are horrid for so many different reasons (it would require at least one other article to explain why), the sites for Arsenal, Everton, Fulham, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Spurs and Manchester United are much better. However, they don’t break the mold. If anything, for the most part, they try to copy the Perform formula even down to the level of the splash page followed by a home page design that is almost identical from site to site. Remove the club colors and team crest and you’d have a hard job distinguishing one from another (other than a few exceptions such as Portsmouth and Chelsea).

Back to the topic of the official club websites for Liverpool and Manchester City, and why they’re different. Liverpool’s website, Liverpoolfc.tv, is the only one in the Premier League that is designed, programmed and maintained by the football club itself. While it’s not on the cutting edge of sites, it definitely has tons of content and the recently redesigned site is a significant improvement over the last version. Plus, it’s the number one football website in the United Kingdom based on the amount of traffic the site receives.

The real Premier League title winner in terms of websites is Manchester City’s website, which is leagues ahead of any of its competitors. Designed by Poke, a London agency, the site is incredible and I’m not even a City fan. There are no splash pages. Instead what you get is a modern design that features globs of video content including highlights of their recent matches (here’s the one from Scunthorpe against Manchester City, which is not blocked for international viewers), an official Facebook page, an official Flickr photostream, a Twitter account (unlike cross-town rivals Manchester United who are not on Twitter), a page full of links to Manchester City fan sites, and much more — all contained within a clean and very appealing design.

The site even features a Match Day Centre section that includes minute-by-minute text commentary of games as well as links to listen to the radio commentary from a local Manchester station and the Twitter feed.

These may seem like small advances to some football supporters, but in the world of English football, Manchester City’s web site is a pioneer and needs to be congratulated for the strategy it has undertaken.

The big difference between clubs such as Manchester City and Liverpool and the clubs in the Premier League that use the Perform templates is that the latter are lazy. They’d much rather sign a contract for a cookie-cutter website with the same technology as 60 percent of the other clubs in the league and take the easy way out to fulfill their public service of communicating to its supporters. That strategy is short-sighted and, in reality, is costing Premier League clubs because they’re leaving money on the table that they could be putting into their club instead of the deals they concoct with Perform.

If the majority of Premier League clubs were smart, they would sack Perform and either create their own site or partner with an agency who knew what they were doing and had a long-term strategy. After all this is the biggest sports league in the world yet the majority of club web sites look like they were created in 1990. And it isn’t just the Premier League clubs that are poisoned with Perform’s designs. By my last count, 90 percent of the 72 clubs in the Football League club websites are run by Perform.

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