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General Football Forums & How They Reflect Reading FC Fans - A Personal Survey by daib0

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May 23, 2011

We're always keen to hear your opinions and any thoughts you have about Reading here at the Tilehurst End but we realise there are other forums and places where discussion and debate about the club can take place. One of those places that we've developed a good relationship with is the Royals Rendezvous, which along with HobNob Anyone? is one of the two biggest Reading FC fans forums online.

One of the biggest forums for general football fans was the BBC's '606' boards but they will be closing this summer due to budget cuts. Therefore, one of the 'founding fathers' of the Rendezvous, daib0, has written a piece on some of the other general forums available to Reading fans, how well they reflect the club and cater for our fans.

daibo has kindly offered to share his piece with us here at The Tilehurst End, so please give it a read and let us know what you think.

General Football Forums & How They Reflect Reading FC Fans - A Personal Survey by daib0

So … now the BBC 606 service is very shortly to close. This has been the most popular sporting fans’ forum in Britain, unrivalled in the wealth and variety of opinions, generally aired in good faith but with a minority doing a disservice to the enjoyment of the vast majority. Therefore, before I start to name, label and describe other forums it is necessary to firstly present the general idea of the BBC 606 football forum site.

Where did the ‘606’ originally come from? It started from a telephone phone-in programme which was not so much related to the telephone number as to the time of day. Originally 606 was broadcast only on Saturdays after Sports Report and the name comes from the approximate time the show started, six minutes past six. This grew into the 606 fans’ forums, which became a frenetic meeting place for all British football and other sports fans, especially on match days, and came to attract attention from many farther afield – well, worldwide.

What was the success secret? Simple; as the high-profile BBC ‘machine’ was able to produce so much team news, statistics, managers’ and players’ view etc. on their daily-updated football page, the normal ‘fan’ was able to dip easily into this information and then switch directly to the 606 forums without having to leave the main BBC site. Viewers can create their own account, allowing them to write and publish their own articles as well as comment on the topics made by other members. Users can also rate topics on a scale of 1 to 5 (the greater the number, the better the member thinks of it). Staff members can select topics from various categories and label them 'Hot Topics', providing a link to the article from its sports homepage. Also, by using an easily visible list of teams, one can check on one’s match opponents, promotion or relegation competitors, and start to interchange views.

However, as in all good things, there has been widespread misuse of the system. In theory, the forum is heavily moderated, with any off-topic, inappropriate or abusive content generally being removed, but there have been long-term problems with moderational aspects. Language should be decent (no swear words) and abusive or aggressive posts are not to be tolerated – very well in principle, but due to the hundreds of thousands of posts appearing over the last few years, the BBC itself – and although employing a large moderation team – have not been able to check individually each post, and generally rely on members’ tip-offs as to when indecency etc. occurs. It is true to say that the poor BBC moderators have suffered great stress during the last eighteen months – this has been relayed discreetly to me – and as a result now, very well-known have become the modern-day descriptions of WUM (wind up merchant) and ‘multi-identity’ users. The Reading 606 board suffered severely (greater than most) in this respect during the past two years or so, which was the underlying cause for the launching of a so-called WUM-free new forum ‘Royals Rendezvous’ (www.royalsrendezvous.co.uk ) by a core group of the 606 Reading board members.

However one has to remember that despite initial successes which have put this fans’ forum on the map with optimism, this is a site designed specifically for Reading fans only, and as so is not conceived as a general banter site with gentle to-and-fro dialogue between rival fans so does not enter the equation in this present survey. The same might be said of ‘The Tilehurst End’, an excellently conceived idea in my opinion, which fills a gap where a simple football forum can’t quite touch upon, and very astutely combines being a ‘blog’ page of intelligent information with that of supporter inter-action. So, although myself am a ‘founding-father’ of RR and a poster and friend of ‘The Tilehurst End’ my efforts underneath cover only GENERAL football forums; those dedicated to all teams but none in particular, as it were.
As said at the beginning, the BBC 606 shortly shuts up for good (the news was announced on 24th January, 2011, as part of corporation cuts – 200 web sites in all are to go in all, and 180 of them this year alone). Many users are pondering what other sources to use, whilst a number of others are actively promoting a particular site that they now hold dear. It’s very important to mention that a number of sites have sprung up explicitly after the BBC closure news was announced; these are difficult to judge accurately because they still need time to attract a core of new user members, but I have tried to do so. Some members are very impartial (offering information in good faith), but too many have frankly been pests these past two or three months trying to unload too forcibly their views on the silent majority. I’m going to try and unravel all these links now, and give good honest appraisals of how the various sites treat Reading FC fans, and which are in fact frequented by our fans.

So, what is available, and how do they rank? Always personal choice, of course, but I’ve attempted to look in on many sites, and I offer my basic opinions. My cup of tea may not be your cup of tea, but I’m supposing that as a football fan with a special love of Reading FC you’ll want to find a championship section (obviously going to change if we win the championship play-off final!), and that you’d want to find Reading listed as a separate identity on such pages for easy browsing. Not all places offer that by any stretch of the imagination. We also suppose that established sites with many users would in theory offer a better and complete service but, again, that is not always the case. Of the number of sites that have sprung up only since the news of BBC 606 closure has come to light, almost all  have admirable energy; but the realistic conclusion I have come to is that there is not simply space for all of them. Some, unfortunately, will almost inevitably bite the dust in due course (and within a couple of years I’d guess). However, what sometimes happens is that fans of a particular club change from the BBC 606 to a particular site ‘en mass’ so they continue their chat together, but as a result find little banter from fans of other teams, who may have gone to an altogether different place. I might mention, to give examples, Norwich City and Leeds United fans as large groupings migrating together to specific new sites, but these new sites are ‘lame’ in that other teams of the same division hardly have fan representation, looking at the threads and posts currently being made. However, since this largely works by word-of-mouth or rather word-of-keyboard, all clubs have these paths of tendencies up to a certain extent. I estimate that well under 50% of the BBC fans have yet decided their fate, so the battle is definitely there to be won by so many present day sites in the ‘recruiting’ game.

Here goes the presentation then on specific sites:

Interpretation Notes:

  • Starting years are approximate, according to the little information I could gleam.
  • Total number of users:  up to the first 1000 figures are given to nearest 100 -  after a thousand to nearest 500
  • The entries are placed in personal preference order, starting with best at top, but it should always be stated this is an order that might not be agreeable to everyone – no poll has been carried out.
  • Likewise, the points ‘awarded’ are a subtle combination of the factors expressed in the descriptions – it is not a mathematic calculation!
  • It might be the case that a few forums have slipped by inadvertently – for example, on Zetaboards alone there are dozens and dozens which theoretically could be included - but this is all in all a pretty comprehensive list of the main active sites. Apologies in advance if the moderation team of one missed forum feels that they should have been included.

1]

JA606 (Just Another 606)

http://www.ja606.co.uk

Total number of members: 4,000

Comments: The newest of the lot. It’s not only that nearly 4,000 members in its first week of existence obviously promises a lot. This site has thoroughly studied the ‘old’ BBC 606. In fact, it’s virtually a clone! Visually almost identical and with the same features, many users seem comfortable with it from day one and favourable comments are everywhere. I’m not sure whether some of the control team are indeed from the 606 team itself, but they seem to have favoured treatment from the Beeb itself in help at this moment as regards some of the coding etc. The Reading threads presentation is a 95% likeness to the BBC; however they offer in theory a tough moderation stance against ‘undesirables’.  Start date: One week ago

Marks out of 10: 9

2]

606 Football for All

http://606championship.proboards.com/index.cgi

Total number of members:

Comments: A big site, with plenty of Reading activity. Changing to successive pages of a thread is a pain, but it’s the only forum where championship posts heavily outweigh Premier ones, and Reading have the third highest user numbers after Derby and Leeds. Indeed, Reading fans shifted over in numbers after previous BBC 606 user problems a few years ago! Started 2006.

Marks out of 10: 8

3]

Not 606

http://www.not606.com

Total number of members: 9,000

Comments: Exceptional list of sports up to even including the Gaelic Games and Martial Arts, and teams well represented in individual threads. They use rather complicated points and ‘levels’ systems which seem to be unnecessarily competitive in order to coax the most user contributions, but generally very sound indeed. Reading FC has a number of dedicated threads which makes welcome reading … started in 2010

Marks out of 10: 8

4]

New 606

http://www.new-606.co.uk/index.php

Total number of members: 3,500

Comments: Extensive listing of sections in nice blue shades. Every team is listed, but championship and downwards do not hardly have representation – there is not a single Reading post yet. Having said that, the place has a nice feel to it. May well grow, it’s very early days. Start date: 2011

Marks out of 10: 7

5]

Extra Time

www.extra-time.co.uk

Total number of members: 1,500

Comments: Despite promising a lot, the site has not really got off the ground. Reading is not represented in threads for example, although every team is individually listed. The site is quite well represented, but is in the difficult market of attracting members from scratch. Started 2011

Marks out of 10: 6

6]

The Football Forum

http://www.thefootballforum.net

Total number of members: 26,000

Comments: very large site, with separate section for championship but unfortunately not for individual team boards, so difficult to find Reading FC matters. Started 2002 (and needs a certain updating).

Marks out of 10: 5

7]

Forum Football

http://forum.football.co.uk

Total number of users: 40,000

Comments: A very large forum dedicated only to football, and not to other sports. Very many sub-sections, but no individual team list for the championship, something needed for those teams. Started in 2004 (?)

Marks out of 10: 5

8]

Total Football Forums

http://www.totalfootballforums.com/forums/index.php

Total number of members: 17,000

Comments: A very large site, with many sections (footballing and things apart from sports) but championship, league 1 & 2 all lumped together, leading to very uncomfortable reading. Started 2004.

Marks out of 10: 4

9]

606-v2

http://www.606v2.com

Total number of members: 2,000

Comments: Many subjects touched on, and many different sports have their own threads. But in football, apart from Premiership there is little user activity. In the championship Norwich fans went over to this one in block, but no other team has substantial representation. In the lower leagues teams are not even individually mentioned. Started  2011

Marks out of 10: 4

10]

Football Forums

http://www.footballforums.net/forums

Total number of members: 39,500

Comments: The same problem as many others: championship teams are not listed separately making it uncomfortable to find a Reading topic under ‘championship’ matters.  Having so many members is actually a hindrance - there are no less than 150 pages of championship threads titles to wade through, which whilst interesting if you have all afternoon is very annoying if you’re looking for something specific! Start date: at least as far back as 2002.

Marks out of 10: 4

11]

The 606

http://www.the606.co.uk

Total number of members: 800

Comments: Not visually attractive. Little posting done outside Premiership, although teams are listed individually (structure in place but little used – the only Reading post is someone doing a bit of flogging!). Start date: 2011.

Marks out of 10: 3

12]

My Football Forum

http://www.myfootballforum.com/forum.php

Total number of members: 1,500

Comments: Uncomfortable visually, the order of presentation is somewhat strange, and there are no separate threads for each championship team. To give this one a miss. Started 2009.

Marks out of 10: 3

13]

English Football Forums

http://www.englishfootball.info/forums

Total number of members: not available

Comments: A more sensible approach in that non-premier teams have their own board if interest is showing; Reading being among 6 championship sides with their own sub-section (having have said that, there is no post!). It is a factual site detailing information, stats and news, but despite a long history is not apparently presently in strong shape. Started 2001.

Marks out of 10: 3

14]

12 Yards

http://www.12yards.co.uk

Total number of members: not displayed.

Comments: finding its way. Reading virtually unrepresented (one comment only).  Slightly uncomfortable visually, and doesn’t invite user participation. Best to skip. Start date 2011.

Marks out of 10: 2

15]

The 606 Football Fans’ Forum

http://606football.forumotion.co.uk

Total number of users: only 100

Comments: Has never got off the ground. Visually unattractive. The whole of the championship has only one thread! Sorry to be tough, but this is going nowhere …  started 2010

Marks out of 10: 2

16]

606 Football Forum - 606 Me

http://www.606me.com

Total number of users: only 100

Comments: Has never got off the ground. Visually unattractive. The whole of the championship has only two threads! Sorry to be tough, but this is going nowhere …  started 2011.

Marks out of 10: 2

17]

Football Talk 365

http://www.footballtalk365.com

Total number of members: 500

Comments: Looks nice, but then you realize that the championship and the lower leagues are simply bunged up together, so the common problem abounds of trying to find a Reading article. There are only 19 threads in total here too, so until numbers grow this is not a recommended sign-up … started 2008.

Marks out of 10: 2

18]

The Goal Posts

http://www.thegoalposts.com

Total number of members: 1,000

Comments: The normal problem –the glamour teams have their page, but all others grouped together. To find anything on Reading you have to read through thirty pages of thread titles. Who has the time for that? Sorry this is only for the Arsenals and Man Utds of this world. Started 2005.

Marks out of 10: 2

19]

Football Forum UK

http://www.footballforumuk.com

Total number of members: 700

Comments: Yet another site grouping all the Football league sides together. Despite a number of years running, it hasn’t really taken off. Give it a miss. Started 2006.

Marks out of 10: 2

20]

Football Chat Forum

http://www.footballchatforum.com

Total number of members: 15,500

Comments: A lot of energy, Reading have their own board, with many initial articles but with hardly any posts making comments back! Hate to say it, but seems to have gone well off the boil, perhaps because it’s North American based. Not worth getting involved. Started 2008.

Marks out of 10: 1

21]

Digital Spy

http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=155

Total number of users: not ascertained

Comments: Not a specialized forum at all for sports; it’s a minor section on ‘general life’, and you need to make ‘clicks’ to get to the football part. The football posts are pretty well replied to though, something welcoming, but there is absolutely no segregation of leagues, competitions etc. Best to miss … started 1999.

Marks out of 10: 1

22]

606 Exiles

http://606exiles.proboards.com/index.cgi

Total number of members: unavailable

Comments: No access permitted without having signed up, so a reference is impossible. According to help document it’s a ‘normal’ type site, offering nothing different from the norm – so why the secrecy? Most will simply not make the effort to register if they have no idea of the content. Start date: 2011.

Marks out of 10: (0)

23]

Football 365

http://forum.football365.com

Total number of members: 24,500

Comments: Access is denied if you’re not signed up as a member. I’ve ascertained that it is a very large site indeed, but cannot offer more information at present. Probably though, Reading material is well defined.

Marks out of 10: N/A

24]

Zetaboards (type in Football for tens and tens of generally small forums)

http://www.zetaboards.com/directory/?p=search

Total number of members: not applicable

Comments: A hotch-potch of so many different sites. This was the founding route for Royals Rendezvous before it went independent. However, over three quarters of sports sites here have absolutely no comments – they haven’t been baptized or hardly so – except by the founder or founders themselves!

Marks out of 10: not applicable

25=]

Football forever

http://url123.info/91bcdb54

Comments: unavailable. Has it seen its day come and go, and said bye-bye?

http://www.aa606.co.uk/forum/index.php?act=idx

Comments: unavailable. Has it seen its day come and go, and said bye-bye?

www.jwned.com/606

Comments: unavailable. Has it seen its day come and go, and said bye-bye?

The main purpose of this article is simply to highlight which sites are readily available in the summer of 2011 – I leave any choice of joining up or not to any particular site up to each individual !