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Why Are Premier League Club Websites So Awful?

bolton wanderers website splash page Why Are Premier League Club Websites So Awful?

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.

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

21 Responses to Why Are Premier League Club Websites So Awful?

  1. Simon Green says:

    Actually the Liverpool FC website has been designed and built by Bluhalo as well as the Spurs site. The difference is that future development is carried out together with the club.

  2. The Gaffer says:

    Thanks Simon for clarifying that. I researched and researched and couldn’t find any mention of an agency who were involved in redesigning Liverpool’s site. Nice work!

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  3. Jim Randall says:

    Man City site cost over £2.5million to build, can you see Bolton or Burnley investing in that? Your article is so ill informed its actually amusing! ever heard of football league interactive? who own all the club digital rights? Any idea how much a website with video production etc costs to maintain? Poor journalism

    • The Gaffer says:

      Jim, yes I do know how much it costs to maintain a football site and the cost you mention for Man City is definitely an extreme. Clubs will smaller budgets could do a much better job than what they have now and generate more revenue as a result. Most clubs and the league itself do a horrible job at marketing themselves online. Their websites are a perfect example of how not to do business.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • MNUfan1991 says:

      Moneybags will blow money on everything unimportant… like Robinho :)

  4. Matthew N says:

    Liverpool’s official site and online video E-season thing (you pay like 6 quid a month for it) used to suck so much that I got out of the habit of visiting them. Hell, about 6 months ago, you couldn’t even view parts of their site properly in Firefox. The new site looks better, but I’ve found better alternatives in the meantime.

  5. pall_good says:

    Personally, I love the aston villa site, but I agree that most sites are straight garbage. And its not all about the cost, its more about the template and content. I know 15 year old kids with better sites than most championship teams. I think the article did a good job explaining why. If cost is the big issue, do a better job, get some sponsors on there and if the site is even half decent, people will want to advertise on it as it would get more hits. (I mean come on, at least have pictures of the players on the team available on the website, wtf?!?)

  6. canadianyid says:

    Spurs just redesigned their site — it’s definitely less busy, but looks like someone designed it with a pre-fab template…it looks pretty amateur, and the panels (probably CMS) remind me of parked domain sites that have dubious-looking search engines.

    http://www.tottenhamhotspur.com/news/latest_news.html

  7. JB says:

    Is it me, or is the Liverpool site the same basic layout as the Chelsea one and several others? How is it distinguished from others? If you compare them side-to-side they’re mirror images of each other. It’s great that Liverpool uses employees to maintain it (I personally work in web development as a PM) but the design looks the same as many others.

    I really like Man City’s layout and scheme. It looks very clean and it is very intuitive.

  8. Bishopville Red says:

    They all tend to be template designs, which is even more surprising because they’re busy, poorly laid out templates.

    The biggest problem with official websites is twofold: (1) They offer noting but propaganda / pabulum, which even the most feverish supporter realizes is biased as hell, and (2) they want you to pay for it.

    On top of that, they have poor match day interfaces. The match centre for Manchester United, for example, is hopeless compared to Soccernet’s gamecast. A fraction of the stats and data. There are fan pages with live chats that are more informative.

    People will not pay for internet services, especially when they can get the same or better, for free, somewhere else. Football clubs need to wake up and realize that this is a great opportunity they’re pissing away.

    What would be awesome is if a club got a hold of the top 1 or 2 fan pages out there and had a conference with their webmasters to find out what fans REALLY want from the webpage, and even let them have a go at it. Obviously it would have to be a little reigned in (hard to see “Glazers out!” on MUFC.COM or the same on LFC.COM, but there are a lot of devoted fans who make sites worth reading, and have gained a significant audience, both in numbers and club-savvy.

    • robert says:

      “The biggest problem with official websites is… They offer nothing but propaganda / pabulum, which even the most feverish supporter realizes is biased as hell”

      …amen brother. that is THE reason.

  9. techsponge says:

    As a ManUtd fan in the US I agree the sites are terrible. As a sport that is watched worldwide, they really do not care about there online presence. All of the teams should be using the internet to push their teams, information and image out as much as possible. Twitter, Facebook, iPhone apps, video feeds, etc. Manchester United does not have a iPhone App. The video feeds as so bad in quality and Low Res that they are not watchable. They do offer a RSS feed but that is about it. I tried to use the forums but that is a joke to.

    Not all teams can do something big and expensive but at least try. As for the big teams they really need to setup the game. I do like what Manchester City has done with there site though.

    One side note. I do not like what they have done with the teams sites but the MLB has done a great job with making all their games available to watch online or on your mobile phone, with stats, top plays, etc. Because EPL is watched worldwide this should be something they should be considering.

  10. Paul Russell says:

    Gaffer, you obviously know very little. I am fairly close to the situation having worked for IMG New Media in the past.

    The Perform sites as you refer to them are part of FLi, a centrally controlled subsidiary of the Football League. There are now 8 clubs from FLi in the Premier League. This is a template driven approach, and you know what the clubs like it, because they get sites for free and all receive major dividends from the various revenue streams Perform / FLi drive on their behalf.

    Perform also manage and run Chelsea, Sunderland, Villa and West Ham’s sites which are much different.

    Your key finding about Man City may well have some truth, however they spend £1.5m per year on their site….the filthy arabs, which is c. x10 more than anyone else…..so well done you have an advert free site.

    Get your facts right gaffer

    • Eddie says:

      filthy arabs?

      Stay classy.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Paul, the Premier League clubs would be well advised to get out of their contracts with FLi so they can create something that actually is going to be more beneficial for the supporters and will, with some work, generate more revenue for the clubs. Right now, most of the Premier League clubs are lazy or out of touch with reality in terms of marketing, or both.

      Just because the clubs like FLi/Perform doesn’t mean they couldn’t do better and make more money through other strategies.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  11. scott says:

    Wow…why are so many of you soooooo critical of the gaffer?? I think he does a smash up job.

    Do I agree with everything he writes (or any journalist)…no.

    But, it’s got to be very difficult to cover a major sport from another country 3000 miles away…especially when the sport being covered is virtually ignored in this country. Yeah, the web has made getting news easier, but with time differences and the difficulty in face-to-face meetings it’s amazing the amount of news (especially breaking stories) that are happening on this site.

    If ya’ll think you can do better, get your domain up and running.

    Until then…keep up the good work gaffer!

    • The Gaffer says:

      Thanks Scott for the compliments. But no worries, I’ve been the target of a lot of abuse in the past, but I can take it ;)

      I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and will encourage the fellow bloggers on the site to do the same, which is creating remarkable content that can’t be found elsewhere.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  12. Jason says:

    From what I’ve seen the best sites are:

    1. Man City
    2. Portsmouth
    3. Fulham

    what do they have in common? free vidoes and highlights!

  13. Simon Burke says:

    i dont know enough to comment about the companies themselves or the various teamsites but i can say i dislike the Arsenal site. Its too corporate and I feel every time i go to it they try to sell me something i dont want – also its club based propaganda on there so its hardly a valid news source. I tend to get my best football/Arsenal news from other sites on the web and rarely bother with the official site which now has an ArsenalUSA section. I know Gaffer wasnt too keen on USA versionings of sites.

  14. What could be worse than the official Premier League website-feh! The are so tight-fisted. These blokes should pick up a few tips from the NFL, they really need a lesson in showmanship!
    Thank goodness for the Beeb, although it’s largely free of the flashiness of many club sites, it provides a clean commentary and easy to navigate interface. And, Gaffer, I agree with you regarding Manchester City’s web site; clean, attractive and up to date.

  15. Haywain says:

    The problem is that the Premier League clubs can’t get out of FLi, any more than the clubs who have left the Football League in the opposite direction can. They are tied in to a long term contract which has (I believe) another 18 months or so to run. Apart from tying the clubs in, there’s little incentive for Perform to come up with something better. There are a good few clubs who look forward to the opportunity to do their own thing in the future.

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