It’s five years since WSC last handed out any awards to worthy websites. And even then, we didn’t actually hand anything out. These are virtual awards that reflect the cyber-realistic nature of the internet and so will be better appreciated by the keyboard-bound phalanx of dedicated writers who would never desert their terminals just to attend some fancy web awards dinner at the Savoy. Besides, they were fully booked until next Christmas.
Those five years have seen a significant decline in webzines while blogs, forums and Twitter feeds have emerged as the instant conduit for football’s weary, frustrated and furious fans. Ambitious commercial ventures, aside from betting sites, have largely become part of internet history and the big-name media outlets have established themselves as the main source for news and mainstream features. The consequent chase for reader responses to impress advertising executives has meant that considered, quality writing has often been sacrificed.
But are we discouraged? Not at all. Considering the payback, we are amazed that in the non-commercial substrata, there are still independent websites ready to invest energy in producing work full of conviction, originality, wit and well-hewn prose. It’s true that, in terms of numbers, there are simply not that many good football sites any more and many of those we’ve praised before are now extinct or obsolete. But those with more staying power sustain the notion that bewildering devotion and unquenchable hope continue to pump the barely visible heart that keeps football alive and just about bearable.
Worthy Websites: Gold Awards
Pitch Invasion & Two Hundred Per Cent
There’s not that much difference between a website and a blog any more, thanks to advances in layout innovation that simplify the once arduous tasks of constructing and maintaining a site. These two general sites have exploited the new possibilities and moved ahead of the competition with consistently excellent coverage. Their strength is to use quality writing as a vehicle for intelligent, commentary-led journalism looking at football from a photographic, historical, cultural, political and economic perspective. Fresh daily content proves that these sites are committed and they deserve your support to endure in the frequently bland, barren landscape of online football writing.
Play The Game & Transparency In Sport
The only sites devoted to uncovering bribery, corruption and all other kinds of shenanigans in the world of professional sport and in particular football. Play the Game is the site of the Danish-based watchdog that values integrity in both sport and the journalists that cover it, while Transparency In Sport is the site of FIFA vice-president Jack Warner’s nemesis, investigative reporter Andrew Jennings. Both are essential reading in the run-up to this coming summer’s sponsor-driven, fake FIFA love-fest.
Worthy Websites: Silver Awards
Superbly laid out single-page overview of headlines from the main media outlets, selected blogs, football magazines, messageboards, most recent podcasts and more besides. A simple but immaculately executed aid to swift surfing.
The Political Economy of Football
Wyn Grant’s sobering site is the only useful guide to the messed up financial state of the British game. It now includes yearly profit and loss figures for most teams going back to the mid-1990s and an easily accessible archive of stories, club by club. Newcastle’s articles alone could justify an extra site.
Football And Music
We all know football and music don’t mix, but at least they don’t mix in a grimly fascinating way. Here’s where this superb site comes in, an ongoing documentation – with YouTube and MP3 links – that explores the almost impossible disunity of two art forms we love to watch collide.
Run Of Play
This blog sums itself up well: “Our aim is to bring you the latest football news from around the world with style, scepticism, and wit.” The blog is nicely subtitled “Attacking Football”. Sharp, feisty and funny.
Worthy Websites: Bronze Awards
The 100 Football Grounds Club
Many of us like the idea of being a groundhopper but only in theory. Our vicarious visits to places like Norton and Stockton Ancients and Darlington Railway Athletic come courtesy of the hardy souls who not only make the trips but write about them too, at length, and in a nerdish but weirdly compelling fashion.
European Football Weekends
OK, room for one more groundhopping blog, because these lads don’t take themselves too seriously on organised weekends, wearing EFW T-shirts, in a bus, drinking beer on the autobahn on the way to a German fourth division game. The jocose banter makes you feel like you’re on the bus too. A boozy, enjoyable trip.
The Global Game
Not updated as often as it used to be, but this stellar North American site is still the flag bearer for the kind of in-depth football writing that has declined just as weak satire, mindless ranting and banal tweeting have risen to the fore. Its archives are a treasure.
Read how Lindsay Lohan and Tom the Cabin Boy from Captain Pugwash became Doncaster Rovers fans. Dry wit combined with well-informed football analysis.
“Town: static, shocking, shaming.” That’s a one-paragraph summary of Grimsby’s first-half performance against Bath City in the FA Cup. Brilliantly scathing on a daily basis.
Hans van der Meer
Exquisite photography from the game’s lowest reaches. Stills that move. You will stare at your screen for hours. Why are there not more sites like this. Ian Plenderleith