Webwatch

It's taken a while, but football clubs are slowly getting an official presence on Facebook to match the fan-made pages. Mark Segal logs on to see who's ahead of the game and who's getting left behind

As Simon Cowell found out at the end of the year, you underestimate the power of Facebook at your peril. The campaign to make Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name the Christmas number one was a classic example of how social media, and Facebook in particular, is changing the way people connect with each other.

Websites are now beginning to follow newspapers into the world of misleading headlines. Ian Plenderleith reports

Wilfully misleading headlines were once largely the preserve of tabloid newspapers, but online sub-editors are now competing with millions of sites for attention, so they must spice up their tasters accordingly, regardless of their outlet. This provides those readers who can be bothered to access the story with the diverting pastime of comparing the headline with the content and trying to see if there is more than a passing resemblance between the two.

Ian Plenderleith assesses the ability of players to take media criticism

Students of both football players and the internet might be inclined to reach an unscientific conclusion about the utterances of one and the content of the other. Namely, 98 per cent of what you hear from footballers, or read on the internet, is utterly forgettable. Imagine, then, the challenge of searching the internet for something of genuine insight and interest from an active professional.

Ian Plenderleith reports on how the internet has led to the downfall of a British football pundit whose show can only be heard on the other side of the Atlantic

If a loudmouthed British football pundit based in California decides to broadcast a big opinion on a satellite radio show available only in the United States or by podcast, will anyone care? Well, thanks to the internet the world has become a smaller place and so the unfortunate answer for Steven Cohen, host of World Soccer Daily (nothing to do with the monthly magazine), was a resounding yes. Shortly before the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy earlier this year, he told his audience that Liverpool fans still bore the responsibility for the 96 deaths. After a web lobbying campaign led to sponsors such as Heineken and FourFourTwo magazine pulling their support from the show, it ceased to broadcast in late August, citing harassment and deprivation of the right to freedom of speech.

Ian Plenderleith looks over  Sky's decision to shut down the Rivals network

The age of the network webzine may be coming to a close. In July, Sky Sports shut down its Rivals family of club sites, sending all of its editors a curt notice of immediate termination, three months’ pay, and deleting the network’s entire content from the web. Few were surprised that Sky chose to brusquely cut off poorly recompensed part-time workers. Rivals had gone through a number of different owners with different ideas since its inception eight years ago, and each incarnation brought a new wave of defections from disillusioned editors, who either moved to or founded alternative networks. Indeed when Sky bought the company in late 2007, many suspected that its only goal was to close Rivals down, a theory that’s now hard to refute.

Ian Plenderleith looks back at the stunning contribution made to non-league football made by Tony Kempster, who passed away in June

Fans of the non-League game were unanimous in mourning this past June when one of its most devoted figures, Tony Kempster, died of cancer. This column has featured Kempster’s impeccable online guide to the nether leagues of England before, and used it for reference on countless occasions. He defied all internet trends by investing an unbelievable amount of time and energy to inform hundreds of thousands of fans about the structure of non-League football. There was no commercial motive, and there was no easy escape route into blogging and Twitter. Typically for the non-League milieu, Kempster’s work was born of dedication.

The world of Twitter is gaining more followers by the day, with clubs now producing their own official pages. Ian Plenderleith tries to work out what all the fuss is about

People who have never looked at Twitter (twitter.com) tend to ask: “What is Twitter actually supposed to be?” They used to ask the same things about email and blogs, but then at least a feasible, semi-coherent explanation could be given to even the technologically inept. Once you’ve been inside the super-inane world of Twitter, however, a response is much more challenging, because the point still eludes you. It’s perhaps best described as mankind’s best attempt to waste millions of hours since the invention of prayer.

Ian Plenderleith examines a selection of websites that remember stadiums from football's past

There’s an online version of a book filled with aerial pictures of Lost Football Stadiums that shows a bird’s eye view on the sites of demolished grounds. Some are shockingly prosaic views of housing projects, industrial estates and supermarkets. To many of us, it seems like sacrilege not just to demolish a ground, but also to leave little or no evidence that it ever existed. Scunthorpe’s Old Showground is nothing but a memorial brick in a wall, while the flats of Leicester’s Filbert Village no more resemble a rural settlement then they do a former football stadium. The preservation of Highbury’s façade is an honourable exception.

It's a phrase which is regularly repeated throughout the world to describe football. Ian Plenderleith looks at its numerous appearances in modern sport writing to decide if the game really is beautiful 

God curse Pelé for the beautiful game. Not for having played it, but for having said it. The cliche has become so entrenched in football writing, it’s almost as though some all-powerful totalitarian linguist had banned the word “football” from public use, and we have developed this cunning euphemism instead. Never mind that football, like any other sport, is only beautiful in rare, fleeting moments. And disregard all those other profound authors from the past two decades who’ve been telling us that football is in fact more than a game. There are numerous books, columns and websites which have co-opted the five syllables as their main moniker. We can presume they all thought they were the first.

Ian Plenderleith reviews the FA disciplinary website and their take on the Stamford Bridge debacle

Despite all the billions of pages out there on the internet, there are still times when you can’t find what you want. On some sites it can seem like there’s just enough information to tantalise you, while withholding anything that might be of actual interest. Such as the disciplinary page at the official FA website.

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