Fan Experience of Indian Premier League Cricket

In April 2011, Sportsnet began airing live Indian Premier League cricket games. I had heard of the IPL and thought I’d give it a chance. The cricket league runs for a couple months and has rules designed to complete games faster and make the game more entertaining. Teams are made up of players from around the world, giving the league an international flair.

The first thing that stuck out to me was the high quality of production. The games were available in high-definition with a lot of detailed graphics and information during games. The camera angles gave the viewer a full perspective of the physical pitch and the players. Statictics were presented throughout, giving viewers a ton of data to work with and think about. For example, the “wagon wheel” would animate where shots have been made and what the general tendencies of players are. Games were fast paced with lots of storylines, both on and off the pitch.

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Hockey Fans and Owners: Rules, Expectations and Actions

Source: Yahoo! Sports

A few interesting stories in the news that really highlight the relationship between fans and team owners. One is about a Montreal business that was asked to take down a sign that had the local hockey teams logo. From CTV Montreal:

The banner showed a man wearing a Canadiens jersey and slicing shawarma with a sword. Underneath the cartoon-like caricature was a large “Go Habs Go” message.

Issa quickly received a letter from an NHL lawyer telling him he was violating league copyrights and to remove the banner. At first, he simply painted over the Canadiens logo on the shawarma slicer’s jersey, but another letter quickly followed in January telling Issa that “Go Habs Go” also represents a trademark.

The other is out of Vancouver, where a car dealership was asked to take down a sign that supported the local hockey teams playoff run. From The National Post:

Doug Lum, general manager of the Destination Auto Group, said he received the letter by both courier and email Thursday from the NHL’s legal department.

The letter refers to a large sign on the window of the company’s Kingsway Honda dealership.

The Teardrop Flags reads: “Go Canucks Go!” with the words “Honk if you’re a fan” underneath. There is also a small Canucks logo on the window.

It’s clear that fans and team owners have certain expectations of one another. Fans expect entertainment and information when the need it. Owners see fans as a source of revenue and an audience for their product. Fans must also abide by certain rules, such as the ones established by the Canucks and Canadiens. Rules are a given in any relationship, whether business, personal, online or offline.

Within a network of groups and individuals related to the game, relationships between entities rely on expectations. From there, these expectations can evolve and determine if and how the relationship will continue to exist. Expectations play a role in the fluidity of the network with rules and actions changing all the time. From these relationships come action by fans, as well as league managers and team owners.

What I find surprising is how harsh both the Canucks and Canadiens franchises reacted to signs clearly supportive of them. Additionally, both organizations were able to copyright a slogan that was created by fans (“Go Team Go”). Even in a digital age where anyone can remix cultural artifacts such as team logos and images, both franchises still view their fans as simple consumers rather than creative produsers (Bruns, 2005). I don’t think this will impact future fan behavior since the web is filled with fan generated content that does not have full permission from the teams.

Bruns, A. (2005, March 11). Some Exploratory Notes on Produsers and Produsage. Retrieved from http://snurb.info/index.php?q=node/329. (2011, May 16).

Restaurant owner fined $89,000 for showing some Habs spirit. (2011, May 16). CTV Montreal. Retrieved from http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110516/mtl_basha_110516/20110516/?hub=MontrealHome.

Wyshynski, G. (2011, May 17). Is NHL wrong for serving $89,000 fine to Montreal restaurant? Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Is-NHL-wrong-for-serving-89-000-fine-to-Montrea?urn=nhl-wp5062. (2011, May 18).

Ziemer, B. (2011, May 2). Car dealership’s Canucks Sign Draws NHL’s Ire. The National Post. Retrieved from http://sports.nationalpost.com/2011/05/02/car-dealerships-canucks-sign-draws-nhls-ire. (2011, May 18).

Hockey Fans and Remix Culture

The following post was for an assignment in New Media Narratives.

Topic: Remix culture is fundamentally at odds with older media institution and practises. Investigate a case study which illuminates these tensions.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A remix culture, according to Lawrence Lessig, is one where “people participate in the creation and the re-creation of their culture” (Lessig, 2007). It is one where people can use an existing artifact to create something new and unique. Lessig breaks down culture into two categories: read/write culture and read/only culture. This latter culture is one where “creativity [is] consumed but the consumer is not a creator” (Lessig, 2007). A read/write culture is described as being a symbol of individual freedom and personal expression (Lessig, 2005) while a read/only culture “is top-down…where the vocal chords of the millions have been lost” (Lessig, 2007). With the increase in digitization of original work such as art, music and ideas, the remix culture impacts both the creators as well as the consumers.

Source: banksy.co.uk

Examples of remixed work include music sampling, anime fan art and serviceware mashups (Lankshera & Knobel, 2007). People are able to “mashup” (Fitzgerald & O’Brien, 2006) original content with their own alterations and share it as their own. For instance, street artist Banksy uses structures and buildings from around the world as his canvass to express his thoughts and messages (“Banksy – Outdoors”, n.d.). This could be considered vandalism but the art work has gained acceptance and has even led to a film entry at the Sundance Film Festival (Horn & Lee, 2010).

With the cost of computers reducing and image editing software becoming easier to use, photoshopping has become a popular remixing tool for political statements and individual expression. The act of splicing images from different sources together to create a new message and content on the web reflects the remix culture Lessig (2007) refers to. Because of the freedom remix culture demands, it is fundamentally at odds with older media institutions and practices. As demonstrated by photoshopping, the read/write culture does not conform to established and traditional methods of copyright laws, intellectual property rights and publication methods.

CASE STUDY: OILERSNATION PHOTOSHOP CONTEST

OilersNation, a fan website, recently hosted a photoshop contest that invited readers to submit their edited images inspired by the Edmonton Oilers. Original narratives and themes from movies, television shows and advertising are used with Oiler-related images to create new content. Fans expressed their feelings and thoughts regarding the Oilers season, team managements decisions as well as optimism and support for the clubs future. Based on the comments visitors left on the site, one entry was selected to win a prize.

Photoshopping requires some knowledge and experience with the image editing software as well as the intended audience. Editors had to seamlessly mesh hockey images with familiar, pop culture, items so that an explanation was not required. Contest entrants were sharing their works with a hockey fan community, a niche audience, that had to understand their message easily.

The desire of fans to create new content using copyrighted material such as player images and movie posters is a result of the remix culture that exists today. But as this case study demonstrates, there is a tension between the remix culture that encourages the expression of fans and the read/only practices of traditional media institutions.

COPYRIGHT ISSUES

Source: OilersNation.com

Since the images used by fans in the photoshop contest are not owned by them, fans are technically using the images illegally. The photos of the players are owned by the team, private owners or broadcast mediums such as television networks or websites. But since they are available on the Internet, a medium that supports a remix culture, fans are able to copy, save, edit and share the images.

Original images from movies and television shows are valuable to its owners since they took time, resources and capital to create. Yet, franchises such as Star Wars or Bob the Builder do not appear to have received any reimbursement for the images that were used. But in order for fans to express themselves, they need access to these copyrighted images.

The read/only culture that original material owners demand is protected by copyright laws. As Lessig (2007) states, “By default, read/write use violates copyright law. Read/write culture is thus presumptively illegal”. Lessig urges that government legislation must find a balance that allows for creativity but also compensate artists (Lessig & Schlesinger, 2008). In 2001, Creative Commons (Zittrain, 2009) was established to give creators the ability to copyright their material but also allow for certain uses of their work. Their goal is to allow ones “creative, educational, and scientific content [to be] instantly more compatible with the full potential of the internet” (“About – Creative Commons”, n.d.). It remains to be seen if this organization can bridge the ideological differences, regarding copyright issues, between read/write and read/only culture.

MESSAGE CONTROL

Source: OilersNation.com

When an individual or organization creates content, it is for their own purposes and objectives. For instance, when a movie is set for release to theatres, images from the film are used for movie posters and advertising. Theses images and their intended messages are controlled by the original artists. Investments are made into the original material in the hopes that it will generate revenue for them. Since remix culture allows anyone to use original content to create something new, tension arises between it and the traditional method of content creation and control.

The fans who photoshopped images are using content that was meant for a different purpose. Images of hockey players were not intended to be mashed with a Star Wars poster or to be mocked. Professional sports, being a business, must carefully invest in the creation of original work to generate revenue. Teams are accountable to investors, a board of governors and corporate sponsors. The messages they create must adhere to the goals of their organization, with external stakeholders in mind. When a fan remixes the original content to create a message that does not represent the organization, legal action may be sought for misrepresentation.

Instead of simply consuming the message an organization such as the Edmonton Oilers create, fans are utilizing social media, or web 2.0. applications (O’Reilly, 2005), to create and share their own messages. The barriers to participate and get things done, according to Shirky (2008), have dropped, allowing fans to participate in the creation and control of content. Social media applications such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter provide a voice to fans, making them a source of information; information that traditionally is under the control of the original creators.

AUDIENCE VS COMMUNITY

Source: OilersNation.com

The OilersNation photoshop contest demonstrates the evolution of the traditional audience into more of an active community. Instead of being a part of the targeted audience, fans have connected with one another to form a community, which is vital in a remix culture. Without a community to work with and to create content for, there is little motivation for fans to express their thoughts and creativity.

According to Mason (1999), it is the uncertainty of games and player performance that professional sports sells to its audience. Fans in turn buy tickets to events and purchase merchandise. Fans have also demonstrated their desire to not only consume, but to actually do something with the product sold to them by professional sports. Examples include fantasy league pools, where fans select players at the start of the season and collect points to compete with other fans. Phone applications such as Pre Play Sports (“Pre-Play Sports”, n.d.) allow fans to predict events during a live football game and compete with others. Fans have also demonstrated their creative and collaborative abilities by taking the statistics generated by the league and developing their own methods of tracking team and player performance (Staples, 2008). These fans are conducting, what Bruns (2008) describes as, “produsage”, which is the “collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement” (p. 15).

The ideologies and characteristics of this participatory culture (Jenkins, 2008) are in stark contrast to those envisioned by creators of original work. The hockey fan community and its remix culture have a different approach to creating content than the read/only audience the Edmonton Oilers may view them as. This leads to tension since the professional sports teams and leagues cannot control how their property is used within this community. It is difficult for them to determine who is using their material and for what purposes. However, In response to the evolution of audiences becoming communities, the Oilers have begun interacting with fans using different social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter. The team can be a part of the fan network, rather than remain as outsiders.

SUMMARY

As demonstrated by the OilersNation photoshop contest, a remix culture is fundamentally at odds with traditional media institutions and practices. Copyright issues, message control and the evolution of audiences to active communities demonstrates the ideological differences between remixers and original creators of work. In the future, the way content and its message is controlled over new mediums requires the involvement of the read/write and read/only culture. A balance must be found to protect the work of original creators, but also provide people the freedom and opportunity to become engaged with their culture.

SOURCES

About – Creative Commons (n.d.). Retrieved from http://creativecommons.org/about. (2011, March 31).

Banksy Outdoors (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/outvarious/horizontal_1.htm. (2011, March 31).

Bruns, A. (2009). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Brustein, J. (2011, March 11). A Better Way to Watch Sports. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/weekinreview/13watch.html. (2011, March 25).

Gretz, W. (2011, March 11). Photoshop contest entries: updated. Retrieved from http://oilersnation.com/2011/3/11/photoshop-contest-entries. (2011, March 12).

Horn, J. & Lee, C. (2010, January 24). Sundance 2010: Banksy rocks festival with ‘Gift Shop’. LA Times. Retrieved from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2010/01/sundance-2010-banksy.html. (2011, March 31).

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2007, May). Digital Remix: The Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization. Keynote presented to the International Reading Association Pre-Conference Institute “Using Technology to Develop and Extend the Boundaries of
Literacy”. Retrieved from http://extendboundariesofliteracy.pbworks.com/f/remix.pdf. (2011, March 28).

Lessig, L. (2005). The people own ideas!. Technology Review, 108 (6). Pp. 46-53.

Lessig, L. (2007, November). Larry Lessig: On laws that choke creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html. (2011, March 30).

Lessig, L. & Schlesinger, R. & (2008). Don’t Make Kids Online Crooks. U.S. News & World Report, 145 (14).

Mason, D.S. (1999). What is the sports product and who buys it? The marketing of professional sports leagues. European Journal of Marketing, 33 (3/4). Pp. 402-418.

Fitzgerald, B & O’Brien, D. (2006). Mashups, remixes and copyright law. Internet Law Bulletin 9(2):pp. 17-19. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/4239/1/4239.pdf. (2011, March 30).

O’Reilly, Tim. (2005). “What is Web 2.0?”. Retrieved from: http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html. (2011, March 30).

Pre-Play Sports (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.preplaysports.com/the-app. (2011, March 31).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books.

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody. New York: Penguin Press.

Staples, D. (2008, October 14). Frequently Asked Questions About True Plus/Minus [Web log]. Retrieved from http://communities.canada.com/edmontonjournal/blogs/hockey/archive/2008/10/14/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-errors-stat.aspx. (2011, March 31).

Zittrain, J. (2009). How to end the copyright wars. Nature, 457 (7227). Pp. 264-265.

Advanced Statistics and Hockey Analytics

Traditional hockey statistics have been around since the birth of professional leagues. The NHL’s first game was on December 19, 1917, with the Montreal Canadiens defeating the Ottawa Senators 7-4. According to hockeydb.com, the Canadiens went on to win the league championship that year after winning 13 games in a 22-game season. Assists were not tabulated, but Joe Malone did score 44 goals. The accuracy of these stats is sketchy, but there is evidence that basic stats were tabulated early on.

Today, the NHL publishes hundreds of statistics. Aside from goals, assists, penalties and shots in a game, the league also provides ice time, hits and faceoff percentages and breaks it down by power-play time and even strength. The amount of information the NHL provides has increased over time, and reflects a growing demand for statistics.

These stats can be used for a variety of reasons. They can used by game broadcasters to give more detail about a player or team and to add to the narrative of a game. Fans can use these stats to build their own fantasy league rosters and track favorite teams. Players can use these stats in contract negotiations as they provide more detail about a player’s ability. Coaches can use statistics to focus on specific competition and develop a game plan for their team.

Recently, advanced statistics have surfaced, to supplement these traditional stats. The site behindthenet.ca, a leading provider of advanced statistics, supplies data on where the player starts when play begins, the quality of the teammates he plays with, quality of the competition the coach plays him against, among others. Combined with the basic stats the NHL provides, these statistics provide more insight into the game. An FAQ regarding advanced stats can be found here.

Gabriel Desjardins is the individual behind the site and was recently interviewed on Nation Radio (Team 1260, Edmonton). Alan Mitchell, or Lowetide in the Oilogosphere, hosts the new show and talked to Desjardins about advanced stats, how it started and where it could go in the future.

Regarding how behindthenet.ca started:

“There wasn’t really much interest or much to do in terms of hockey analysis during the lockout (2004-2005 season). Then the NHL started publishing ice time in a much more usable format. Charts with green boxes showing who was on the ice. So they switched that into a text format that I could much more easily process into a website and once I saw that, there were a lot of ideas that sprang to mind. A lot of things that we could borrow particularly from basketball in terms of analyzing players and analyzing what they do on the ice.”

According to Shirky (2008), when the barriers to getting things done drop, more and more people will participate and contribute online. As soon as the league made their stats easier to use, fans were all over it to produce and share high quality data and information. Today, the NHL.com site has data sets that are detailed, updated regularly and easy to use.

Regarding where hockey statistics are going in terms of the data:

Desjardins believes that acquiring more detail about the game at the micro-level is the next step. Examples would be tracking passes and tracking exact pass location.

“Step after that is where you would have every single player and the puck tagged electronically at all times. So you know where absolutely everybody is. And obviously there’s some massive, massive database construction and programming problems to get any useful information out of this. But I think we will really push forward in terms of understanding some of the things that confuse us right now about how the game works.”

If hockey analytics is to expand, the NHL needs to get on board. Fans can take the data that the NHL provides and apply countless mathematical formulas and theories to develop new, innovative, information. There is the possibility that fans can collaborate with one another to begin tracking their own data, as done by Cult of Hockey and mc79hockey.com. But it would be in the NHL’s best interest to be involved in the accumulation of data.

Regarding the visitors to the site:

“Usually I only get a lot of request for things that aren’t there or are things that are broken down. It’s a pretty broad distribution of the pages that people look at. But I think the biggest thing people look at are the Oilers, and then they look at the Flames, and then they look at the Leafs, and that’s basically the bulk of the traffic is going to those three pages.”

“Much more interest in Canadian teams. Which is interesting because I think that the notion that advanced stats in hockey, a lot of people look at it as an American baseball idea, whereas its Canadians who are really pushing it and are really interested in it.”

Canada being hockey obsessed is already known. Recent studies have also shown that Canadians spend a lot of time online. But the fact that the Edmonton Oilers’ advanced statistics gets a majority of the traffic is interesting since the market is considered much smaller than cities such as Montreal and east coast hockey markets such as New York and Philadelphia. Why the Oilers content draws traffic would require research before drawing any conclusions.

Advanced statistics in general will continue to grow since we’ve seen in the past a growing desire by fans to get more involved in the game. Fans are moving from simple observers of the game to participants as they collaborate with other fans to build new information and share knowledge within an online community. The next step may be electronic tracking of professional players, but it’s more likely that a crowd-sourced method of building data sets is much more closer. Mobile technology continues to improve and could give fans the ability to share their observations and data instantly with others. New statistical methods and theories will continue to drive how the data is analyzed, but it will be the collaboration amongst fans that take hockey analytics to the next level.

Behind the Net (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2011 from http://www.behindthenet.ca.

Hartley, M. (2011, March 8). Canada maintains title as world’s most engaged Web nation. Financial Post. Retrieved from http://business.financialpost.com/2011/03/08/canada-maintains-title-as-worlds-most-engaged-web-nation.

HockeyDB.com. (n.d.) Standings for the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL. Retrieved from http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/display_standings.php?tmi=6929.

McGourty, J. (2007, November 26). NHL celebrates 90th anniversary today. NHL.com. Retrieved from: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=369827.

Mitchell, A. (2011, February 19). Interview with Gabriel Desjardins. Nation Radio. Team 1260, Edmonton. Retrieved from http://oilersnation.com/2011/3/3/nation-radio-february-19-2011.

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody. New York: Penguin Press.

NHL Trade Deadline: Speculation, Rumors and Information Overload

With the NHL trade deadline coming up, a lot of rumors and speculation has taken over sports websites, blogs and twitter feeds. Trade activity typically picks up around this time with teams deciding if they’ll make a run for the playoffs or start unloading players in the hopes of re-building for next season.

I find this to be incredibly frustrating for a few reasons.

1. Teams shouldn’t have to wait until the deadline to tweak their rosters. In my opinion, you have months in advance to plan things out, make your trades and give a team a chance to mesh together.

2. The rumors that are out there are typically baseless. It makes for great chatter, but really it amounts to nothing. Recently, a bunch of trades went down well before the deadline, which is a rare occurrence. I personally did not hear any rumors or speculation about the players who were traded, which makes me question how good the insiders at TSN and Sportsnet really are. Copper & Blue have a piece on this as well.

3. You can’t trust anybody. NHL teams are known to release names of available players and potential trades through different media to entice other teams and see what the value of their players is. Managers make very calculated moves to get ahead.

Major sports networks such as TSN and Sportsnet will have extended trade deadline coverage all day on their television broadcasts. Their websites will have real-time updates with analysis after every trade. Twitter is being used heavily to share information such as which team has a scout at a game and what trades may or may not go down.

Why so much speculation of potential trades and signings in the NHL?

For one, the trade deadline does have a lot of action. Last year alone, 31 trades went down on the deadline. (Wikipedia)

Second, the way contracts are set up, speculation will always exist. The free agency process, teams re-building and draft classes all contribute to the speculation.

Third, hockey is a game that relies on more than one superstar. To really build a successful team, the right group has to be assembled. From first line scorers, to third line pluggers and second pair defenceman, every position is vital. Speculation is not reserved for top players only. Every position is open to speculation, including minor league teams and junior prospects.

Even when a team gets a new player or loses one, it doesn’t guarantee anything. Picking up a player looks good on paper, but a lot of pairings just don’t work. You can blame this on “chemistry” or perhaps a bad fit in a coaches system. Regardless, this spurs on even more speculation.

Speculation and gossip will always exist in the game because of its business structure as well as the game itself. But being buried with more and more speculation is causing some major information overload. A lot of bad information is on the web and it’s up to fans to build the filters necessary to cut through it all.

The Game as a Narrative

Source: scenariste.org

Following a team, a player, a league, a division can be a long soap opera. Whenever the fan steps in and gets into the game, that’s when the story starts.

There’s thousands of storylines to follow as a fan. A team’s quest for a championship. A player’s development from a junior player to a professional. A league wide battle for top spot. Each game, each play, each season is made of stories. Each game story consists of the same things. Characters, settings, time period, problems, resolutions.

Fans follow these storylines but have always been able to create their own.

For instance, they can follow a local player who goes from the neighborhood rink to the Hall of Fame. Mainstream media outlets, newspapers and blogs can also create a story for such a player, but a fan can have a different take on them. Perhaps they knew them personally or had more knowledge than what made it to the papers.

As commenter’s on blogs, message boards and social media sites, fans can give input on the story and perhaps sway the perspectives of others. In this case, fans not only follow storylines, but they also become part of it as well.

NHL in 360

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=1248069572260&playerType=embed

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo has a special exhibition set up to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Buffalo Sabres.

This video is shot from different points of view. A goalie and a forward for the Sabres has a camera attached to their helmets while one camera is from a fans point of view. The New York Times has more on the story.

The Hockey News: 100 People of Power and Influence

Source: The Hockey News

Latest post about The Hockey News’ annual list is here.

The latest issue of The Hockey News compiles the top 100 most influential people in hockey today.

The game itself has so many facets that it’s impossible to really measure influence. There’s the business side of it, so sponsors, owners, league executives and agents have influence. Then there’s the game play, so coaches, players and managers who determine how their teams prepare and perform have influence. Broadcast networks and mainstream media of course influence the game since they decide what’s presented, and how much.

I was surprised to see only one blogger make the list. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy ranks at #92 this year, up seven spots from last year. He’s the only blogger to have ever made the list.

Fans themselves have a lot of influence on the game and use blog sites regularly to get the latest information and interact with others. Online activity of NHL hockey fans has increased significantly over the past few years with more subscribing to digital services (Financial Post). But the modern fan is more than just a consumer of the game. They also act as sponges learning the game and developing their own ideas and thoughts. They take the information out there and centralize it to construct knowledge on blog sites.

Having only one blogger on the list seems bizarre to me especially considering the amount of traffic and comments they get daily. In the past year alone, some major stories have been broken by bloggers. None bigger than blogger Tyler Dellow uncovering some dirt on Colin Campbell, a senior VP and the NHL’s head of discipline. Reaction from TSN, Globe and Mail and Puck Daddy.

It could also be that the list The Hockey News has compiled just ignores online activity as an influencer.

Phoenix Coyotes player Paul Bissonnette landed at #100 on the list. He has a total of 6 points in 80 career games (as of this post) and is known more for his fighting on the ice. But online, Bissonnette has become one of the most popular hockey types on Twitter (@BizNasty2point0). With over 34,000 followers, he ranks near the top of all hockey related accounts, even ahead of The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews). Bissonnettes entertaining tweets are pretty refreshing for a league that has very robotic-like players when a broadcast medium is placed in front of them. He’s also a supporter of causes that help the homeless and has some unique fundraising methods.

His online activity and the nature of his tweets has the attention of a demographic that the NHL caters to and should get him a higher spot. Bissonnette updates regularly to give followers a behind-the-scene look at life in the NHL and promotes the game in a market desperate for fans.

The Hockey News needs to start examining online activity as an influence on professional hockey. I can understand how owners, players and media influence the game. But with more and more people online and the web being what it is, more attention needs to be placed on bloggers and online communities.

Campbell, K. (2011). 100 People of Power and Influence. The Hockey News, 64 (14), p. 14-23.

Hartley, M. (2011, January 25). NHL mobile apps top one million downloads as hockey fans go digital. Financial Post. Retrived from http://business.financialpost.com/2011/01/25/nhl-mobile-apps-top-one-million-downloads-as-hockey-fans-go-digital/.

Ebbsfleet United – Fan-owned soccer team

In 2007, a group of fans pooled together enough money to buy a minor league soccer team in England. The website MyFootballClub.co.uk collected money from fans to become owners of the Ebbsfleet United Football Club. Roughly 26,000 people at the time signed up and contributed $70 US each (Source: Wall Street Journal).

Fans would be able to vote on different issues such as selecting a coach, approving player transfers and game day lineups.

After one year, however, the number of owners dropped to roughly 9,000. As of September 2010, there are only 3,500 paying members (Wikipedia). The team has struggled as of late and has dropped down to a sixth tier level of soccer.

This crowd sourcing tactic seemed like a great idea at first. Utilizing the collective intelligence of fans can be a great benefit to a professional sports team, but has its challenges.

From different quotes in a recent BBC article, it appears there were critical factors that led to the drop in ownership members.

Fans appear to have been given false promises and hope regarding the team and dedication of owners. According to Gary Andrews of SoccerLens.com, it took seven months for the Pick the Team option to be offered but needed to be voted on by the owners. The final vote was 265-227 in favor of Team Manager Liam Waish selecting the team rather than the fans. Such a low voter turnout is concerning and makes you wonder if the majority of the owners are even real fans of the club.

“I think we failed to give many members the feeling of ownership and closeness to the club they had hoped for. Perhaps the idea of being part of a takeover and making decisions was more exciting than the reality.” – Will Brooks, MyFC’s founder (has since departed), BBC article

There is a tiredness about the whole MyFootballClub project. I think a lot of people when it first started thought it would have been a large football club – someone like Leeds United. That would have been ridiculously optimistic to take on a football club like that. There’s a lot of frustration that there were larger numbers and between us all we haven’t achieved a little bit more. – Phil Sonsara, voluntary chairman, BBC article

It also appears that not everyone was on board with having so many owners controlling so much. Coaches have enough to deal with when handling players and game plans, let alone a fan community with some power. It’s also tougher to make decisions regarding player transactions when you have to consult a community.

I don’t have the time to sit and write blogs and podcasts or whatever they are. I have a lot on my plate. I’m not going to be sitting in front of a computer six hours a day, answering everyone’s emails. – Liam Daish, Team Manager, BBC article

I honestly felt the club could never progress so long as MyFootballClub was involved. There comes a point when these people need to say this is damaging the football club now. When it comes to transferring players, for example, other clubs don’t always want their details bandied about in the public domain. Decisions have been made in the past that don’t involve the members. They’re swept under the carpet. Nobody’s probably trying to do that in purpose, but it’s the reality of the situation. – Roly Edwards, former director and vice-chairman, BBC article

Today, the club continues to struggle on the field while problems exist with the current ownership system. A site has been launched called FreeMyFC, a community of fans unhappy with the current situation.