Webwatch

Our web awards focus on the best footballing blogs, fanzines and websites. Ian Plenderleith gives his view on why each is worthy the accolade

It's that time of year when we finally say something nice about what's on the internet, and the 2010 Web Awards focus on what may be considered classic fanzine virtues – independence, originality, wit and selfless involvement in a game that seems intent on distancing itself from a fanbase whose cash it wants and needs, but which in many corners still stubbornly refuses to sink into the passive role of slavish devotee. Our by-no-means comprehensive selection of sites, some of them consistent enough to be held over from last year's awards, reflects the necessity of a watchful ethical eye, the redemption of satire and an increasing awareness of the need to analyse the game's business side. The web may be clogged with bothersome ads, unhinged anger and celebrities masquerading as columnists, but there's resistance too. Support your team, but support too the many voices of sanity who still care that teetering crises contrast daily with high-spend lunacy.

Ian Plenderleith raises the difficulties faced in creating a football blog that is both successful and commercially viable

Why would anyone work for free? One major plot in the internet’s rollercoaster storyline has been the rebirth of amateur media and its consequent claim to be taken seriously. In terms of football journalism, this has meant an emerging forum for that perennially seething vocal mass, the fans. The initial resistance by the mainstream newspapers to that untamed articulation of frustration and discontent has given way to a partially welcoming embrace.

This month, Ian Plenderleath takes a look at a football website written exclusively by women

Everyone knows, as the American philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said, that “gossip is vice enjoyed vicariously”. Bearing that in mind, the best way to approach a football site like Kickette, where “multi-millionaire football star shenanigans, exclusive WAG gossip and snarky fashion analysis are the reason we exist”, is just to enjoy its self-knowing appreciation of the contours of semi-clad footballers’ torsos, bitchery about the excessive make-up of footballers’ wives and up-to-speed information on the latest bordello sightings. Because you really need to see those pics of Carlos Vela and his international team-mates hanging loose with blonde transvestite ladies of the Mexican night.

Players, managers and even referees are tweeting these days. Ian Plenderleith wants to hear more from the men in the middle

One day, when referees are interviewed after games to explain why they made certain decisions, people will ask: why didn’t this happen years ago? Like the introduction of goal nets, substitutes or a muzzle for Ken Bates, the most obvious ideas are often the best ones, but can take decades to implement. There are simply no good reasons to prevent referees offering their views, yet the momentum for changing the status quo is negligible.

In a consumer age where new club kits are released annually, Ian Plenderleith takes a look at the good, the bad and the pointless websites dedicated to the humble football shirt

It's a weary old truth that one of the greatest frauds of the modern game perpetrated against the averagely stupid fan is the annually redesigned replica kit. This used to be a topic of certain outrage among supporters and consumer bodies alike, but now it has become just another accepted sector of the fat-packed pie-chart labelled “Revenue Streams”. Rather than refuse to buy it, we peer at the new design like daytripping pensioners in a souvenir shop. Oh look, the collar’s done a V this year, and there’s a funny squiggle on the sleeve. And have we gone a more embarrassed shade of red as well? No problem, it’ll hide my shame as I fork out another 40-plus quid.

Ian Plenderleith bursts the bubble of naive writers and big corporations who claim that football can cure the world's ills

“The beautiful game of football is a religion that unifies the people of the world,” Anand Datla of Indian website the Sports Campus blogged a couple of weeks prior to the World Cup. Once every four years this candied, candle-holding view of football enjoys an airing from all quarters of the game – its fans, writers, players and officials. Oh, and its sponsors too.

Ian Plenderleith examines a philosophical approach to the game which could make watching international football more bearable for England fans

As we approach the World Cup and lose all sense of proportion about football’s importance, it’s worth asking just why we follow the game at all. A column by Andrew Guest at pitchinvasion.net asked a pertinent hypothetical question: If England win the World Cup, will their fans be any happier one year from now than if they had been knocked out in the second round by a goal that Carlos Tevez surreptitiously bundled in with his fist?

The bosses at Major League Soccer in America thought it necessary to spend millions on a new web presence. Ian Plenderleith points out why it has been a disaster

“The days of the 800-word think-piece are over,” a football journalist recently told me as we discussed the state of internet writing. With all that content being condensed into ever shorter formats, readers want easily browsed headlines, Twitter snippets, news-based blog entries that end with a question, controversial quotes and a space at the bottom where they can launch in with their opinions. Those long paragraphs just give us a headache and take up time better spent watching that shaky YouTube clip where the loco ref scores with an overhead kick in a Paraguayan Fourth Division game before taking a out a handgun and opening fire on the crowd.

Ian Plenderleith clicks around the web to try to decide whether the football writing on there is worth his money, or if it should remain free to all

How much would you pay to read football journalism online? It’s a question that’s taxed the media ever since the internet quickly meta­morphosed from a content free-for-all to a platform with endless commercial opportunities. Several cases illustrate the way that online content could go over the next few years.

Ian Plenderleith uses websites like YouTube to discover a metaphorical gold mine of bad punditry from around the world

Who is the game’s worst broadcaster? The debate has embraced a wider cast of dubious characters now that we can head to YouTube to hear the gibbering vacuity and perverse analysis of commentators and pundits from around the world. And, thanks to the internet, British viewers were well warned ahead of the arrival on their screens this year of the lead candidate for football’s most nonsensical TV goon, ESPN’s diminutive, smooth-topped Irish export, Tommy Smyth.

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