The NewCo Wikipedia wobble latest – now a Rangers man has his say

Following on from my last blog on how Wikipedia are struggling to come to terms with the Rangers NewCo situation, I recieved this brilliant response from Andrew Dickson, Publications Editor at the club about how they see it. I’ve copied the whole response below.

More than happy to hear any more comments on this.

“I post this as a Rangers employee and someone who has obviously followed this story very closely throughout. The issue of whether Wiki persevere with their current Rangers page or start a new one is one they quite frankly shouldn’t be putting themselves through.

As someone said to me the other day, a Kit Kat was still a Kit Kat when Rowntree’s was bought over by Nestle and production of the chocolate bar continued. It still used the same ingredients and tasted exactly the same, thus nobody talked of it being a new product. By the same token, Rangers is still the same football club which was formed in 1872 and it is simply the case that its holding company has changed.

Rangers were previously owned by Rangers Football Club plc, which was formed in 1899 and will soon be liquidated. Rangers is now owned by Sevco Scotland Ltd, which will shortly become The Rangers Football Club. It might be a new company which owns the club but the club itself is still the same one. It will still turn out a team which plays in blue called Rangers and which plays at Ibrox Stadium. The manager is still the same, as are most of the staff minus some of the playing squad from last season. Crucially, the club’s history has been retained in the same way as the histories of clubs such as Middlesbrough and Leed United were retained when they went through ‘newco’ situations.

Due to the nature of Glasgow’s ‘goldfish bowl’ environment, half the city is trying to push the belief Rangers is a brand new club while the other half argues against such a notion. The fact is it’s still exactly the same club it has been for the last 140 years but it is owned by a different company now to the one which owned it for the last 113 years, some 27 years after the club itself was formed.”

Why even Wikipedia is wobbly over what NewCo is

Confusion Reign-gers…the message on NewCo’s Wikipedia page which shows the uncertainty about the state of the Glasgow club

The SPL fixture-setters are not the only ones to be suffering a virtual headache at the hands of the NewCo situation -it is also causing big problems for Wikipedia.

The online encyclopedia has reached a brick wall in trying to reflect the dynamic situation facing Scottish football in its entries and cheeky users with no love for the ‘Gers are adding to the headache by flooding the site with change requests for the pages about the club.

The original Wikipedia entry for Rangers has already been re-written in the past tense with a fleeting mention of Sevco Scotland (the new company name). This links off to a new page which has already been marked as being ‘threatened with closure’ by Wikipedia because they cannot make their mind up whether to have a new entry for the new company or whether to merge it into the old Rangers entry.

It seems they were minded to do the latter, but there has been a flood of comments on the site insisting the NewCo should not have any link to the old Rangers page and it should start as a fresh entry with none of the historic achievements of the side that used to play in Ibrox.

So, Wikipedia has reversed its original decision and continues to be literally virtually flummoxed by the whole scenario.

Why NewCo’s arrival in SFL3 won’t mean the end of the Old Firm derby

So, the vote has taken place and everyone now knows where they will start the Scottish football season (well, almost).

Starting out in IRN-BRU Scottish Football League 3 is certainly not where the NewCo wanted to make their debut, but there was apparently an increasing amount of acceptance/humility from the Rangers camp as we came closer to this vote.

Now, most of us would say that’s because they knew there was a tide of opinion against them, and I agree to an extent. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be some other reason why they accepted their lot at the basement of Scots soccer.

I suspect that a deal has already been done between Rangers and Celtic to ensure the Old Firm derby remains for the next three seasons as the ‘Gers fight their way back to the top table.

Many have said that the biggest losers out of the NewCo situation are the two Glasgow sides, because that match means so much to them in terms of revenue and pride. I cannot believe the derby will just be allowed to dissipate like that for possibly more than three seasons.

So, if the formal negotiations haven’t even started between Celtic and Rangers to work out how to keep the Old Firm encounters, you bet they are going to start this weekend.

My theory is that, supported by Sky, the two clubs will try and find a way of holding at least two ‘friendlies’ a season. One will obviously be pre-season and I suspect they will try and squeeze one in mid-winter somewhere. Sky will get the broadcast rights.

The reason given for doing this is it will ensure a revenue stream to give Rangers the best possible chance of surviving in the lower leagues in the short term. Celtic will also obviously support this to replace their lost revenue.

I can’t see this suggestion being turned down and I think the SFL will be persuaded to let Rangers have a week off in mid-winter, or to re-arrange a fixture to accommodate an Old Firm derby.

But then again, maybe I am wrong!

The revolution has begun. But what does it look like?

The Football League has begun its roll out of the new-style club websites which it hopes will lay the ghosts of the previous uniform design and add more spark to the digital presence of over 80 British soccer clubs.

As reported previously on this blog and in FC Business magazine itself, Football League Interactive has undertaken an 18 month project to not only reshape the look and feel of individual websites, but also to offer more variety and more content. The plan was to start the roll-out on some selected sites before turning all of the FLi portfolio to the new look by the end of this coming season.

So this week, they have made under-the-radar launches on at least four club sites that I can see – Leyton Orient, Bury, Barnsley and Notts County.

One thing has clearly been achieved – the designs available for the clubs to choose are radically different. As you will see in a minute from the screengrabs of the live sites, the promise of a text-based look-and-feel, a picture based one and a stats based one has been achieved. However, one of the problems is that one of the design choices is so strong and so good, most clubs will end up choosing this one by default.

The first new site to look at is Leyton Orient’s. Click on the image below to see it in full screen.

They seem to have chosen the layout which shows off how much story content there is. The navigation is simple and works very much like the current BBC homepage, where you click an arrow on the right or left to move the content offering. There is a search bar at the top (more of why that is important in the next examples), but there doesn’t seem to be much hierarchy and the colours are not bold enough for me.

The next example is Bury. Again, click on the image to see it in full screen.

This is a much bolder design and I quite like it. The masthead stands out on the background picture of Gigg Lane and the four blocks below it offer the club the chance to highlight the things that are the most important to the club. They stand out, and have simple calls to action.

But it gets better. Take a look at Barnsley’s new site…

Big, bold imagery right at the top. Football is often about what you see and this design really grabs you by the use of big pictures. The navigation is still clear at the top, although I’ve got to say the ‘Barnsley Football Club’ title in the masthead is very wimpy. It looks like it’s been added as an afterthought and is lacking boldness.

The other problem with this design is that the search bar (which is a key tool) has been shoved to a little black tag on the right of the picture which could easily be overlooked. The search box for me always has to be at the top of the page.

But you cannot underestimate the power of visual appeal to attract people into a subject, and this design really grabs that opportunity by the horns.

And this visual theme is continued on the bottom half of all the websites, where clubs can make stats and video come alive in an accessible way. Take a look at the middle of the new Notts County home page…

A row of blocks highlighting key stats, a mini video player, a gallery of pictures and a great way of displaying players’ individual profiles occupies the centre part of the front page. This visually appealing way of showing graphics continues throughout the site, with a good stats section and an easy way to navigate on the player profile page itself.

And all the ‘furniture’ on the sites seem to work. Ticketing is well signposted and it is easier to find contacts for people involved in the club.

Now nothing is perfect in this world, and that would be the case with this relaunch. There are a number of things that look odd or just jar and do need to be resolved.

An example is below. As you can see, most of the local businesses which support Notts County have dark logos and they are difficult to see on a site of a similar shade.

Staying on the subject of local businesses. One of the big promises of the redevelopment was that more could be done by clubs to to promote their local sponsors on their site.

There is precious little I can see in the designs so far that achieves this – and local sponsors are left to share limelight at the bottom of the site with national brands.

More advertising opportunities have been opened up in the drop down menus you get in the top navigation – but it looks a bit odd there. And also, if the club does not have much to put in that navigation, the banks of white space left in the navigation look awful.

Speaking of blank spaces, there are quite a few places where sponsor tags are supposed to be, but they clearly haven’t been sold. So it looks a little embarrassing to have ‘Powered By’ and then a blank space.

Another annoying thing is the video player on all the sites starts to play straightaway. This is well-known to be a bad user experience.

There are always going to be be hiccups and I am sure these will be ironed out (or there will be good reasons for keeping them), but the revolution which has been secretly launched this week is far better than what was previously there.

 

As tight as a Scotsman’s wallet – are the SPL being TV meanies?

As Scottish Football League clubs gather to consider the way forward for Rangers NewCo, one figure has caught my eye in the financial proposition being made to them by the SPL if the clubs vote NewCo into the First Division, as opposed to the third tier.

The SPL has kindly offered to ease the SFL of the burden of all Rangers TV rights in the league for the princely sum of £1million pounds.

One million – are they joking? The Rangers rights would be worth far more than that in the open market. At a conservative estimate, four million pounds would be appropriate.

I’m not one for stereotypes – but I think some North Sea oil grease may be required on the SPL wallet. Either that, or the SFL should test the water and put them out to open tender. Afterall, they’re SFL’s TV rights to negotiate now…not the SPLs.

 

 

Mates Rates for indebted football clubs? That’d be a Diamond deal, Bob!

Whilst the rest of the world seeks heads on a plate for the recent Libor rate-fixing scandal at RBS and Barclays, I think there is a more suitable penance on offer for those bankers who ensured that friends got a far better lending rate than me or you.

Look through the accounts of most football clubs in the UK and you are guaranteed to see either Barclays or RBS on the list of company creditors.

Most of those debts are in the form of loans which come with interest-rates far higher than you can pick up on Libor, or even on the High Street. These are the type of crippling interest deals that are often one of the major factors (after HMRC debts) that send these clubs into administration.

So Bob Diamond & Stephen Hester, instead of paying fines that will hardly dent your profit margins, or chucking a few of your staff out for fraud – why not make a real difference?

Agree now to apply ‘mates rates’ to all the loans and debts held by UK football club clients. Give them the 1% rate that your trader friends got. Or, a more radical proposal (maybe one for the Government or financial regulator), forget the fines – just get Barclays and RBS to wipe out all owned debts with UK soccer clubs, outside of the English Premier League.

Then watch these clubs grow. Free from the shackles of crippling debts, clubs may be able to stimulate the sort of growth in towns and cities that the Chancellor can only dream of at the moment!