Study: Are club websites getting their priorities right?

Official club websites are still a primary resource for sports clubs to engage with their fans.

It is the place where fans can find out the key information that they need – TICKETS, FIXTURES, TEAM and SHOP.

While social media is massive in terms of building the audience and directing people to the site, the above four elements are what fans are looking for.

They want to know how to get tickets, when the games are, who the players are and how they can buy stuff to show their support.
Of course, there are some deeper elements of information that they may need off the back of these things, but I am amazed by the number of clubs that don’t display this basic information prominently in the main menu.

Over the years, I have worked with more than 20 clubs on their official website developments, and often had the argument with club staff about what menus they want.

They always want to get as much information in to as few menus as possible, but they end up under heading that nobody understands apart from those internally.

Clubs are guilty of trying to shoehorn content in places, perhaps for political reasons, when all they do is marginalise one of the four key elements of the above.

One example of this, is when all teams within a club are grouped under one header – so if there are reserves or academy or other junior teams, they all sit alongside the senior team with relevant links to news and fixtures under that. But all that does, is hide away the core business – which is the news and results of the first team.

This blog was prompted by the launch of the new AS Roma website, and one of the first things I noticed is that they did follow the convention above – and given they were ‘Best in Class’ at the Interactive Media Awards, the highest possible honour in the Sports category, it’s no surprise.

So I decided to have a look at a load of top flight official websites across a few sports to see just how many of them were prioritising the four key things fans are looking for.

It’s worth noting that these checks were done on club sites on desktop – though given most sites are responsive now, the majority have their mobile menus as the same. This is where the handful of clubs with so-called burger menus on the desktop may thrive.

The key to the icons is:

In Main Menu (or acceptable derivative)
Icon in Main Menu
On Descriptive Drop Down Menu (e.g. Games > Fixtures)
Under Generic Drop Down Menu (e.g. The Club > Fixtures)
Included on Burger Menu
Not present on Menu

Websites visited on August 30, 2018, and information correct at the time of posting

Premier League (Football)


Club Tickets Fixtures Squad Shop
Bournemouth
Arsenal
Brighton
Burnley
Cardiff
Chelsea
Crystal Palace
Everton
Fulham
Huddersfield
Leicester
Liverpool
Manchester City
Manchester United
Newcastle
Southampton
Tottenham
Watford
West Ham
Wolves

A few full houses in the Premier League, with the main let down being the squad page. There are examples, like Newcastle, where you wonder why they wouldn’t just put Tickets and Shop in the main menu, rather than having it in a secondary menu above – clearly something that was done by a designer, rather than from a fans point of view.

Tottenham have a burger menu, which isn’t great for a desktop experience, however when you do click it, it gives you the four key elements of information straight away. Everton have a landing page which has three of the four main elements on.

Another interesting element of the Premier League sites is using “Players” rather than squad or similar. Fulham are one example, though their use of “Online Store” seems a bit old fashioned – why not just Store or Shop?

Huddersfield’s site is weak, with a lot of key content hidden underneath generic main menus, “First Team” and the shop bizarrely under “More”.

Premiership Rugby (Union)

Premiership Rugby is solid, with Gloucester using icons on their site which is a little unclear. Northampton use “Rugby” as a menu, which is frustrating, and Leicester don’t appear to make reference to their shop in their main menu.

Worcester have all their key information situated in the main menu in the top left, which makes them arguably the most clear to find club information across the five leagues.

Super League (Rugby League)

Super League clubs are perhaps most guilty of trying too hard and hiding their core content under elaborate headings. Huddersfield are a good example of this, using The Locker Room, while Hull KR’s “On the Pitch” is similarly erring. Hull are an example of what’s mentioned above in terms of featuring all teams on one level, when they could take a leaf out of Wigan’s book and just make sure the core menus go to the first team. Both Salford and Widnes don’t have a direct shop link in the menu, but have “Retail” pages which don’t have a clear link through to an online store on the landing page.

Elite Ice Hockey League

The Elite Ice Hockey League is the most commercially aware league in terms of the requirement to its business. Unlike the major sports above, they don’t receive central funding or broadcasting revenue, as such selling tickets, merchandise and sponsorship is their only way of revenue.

This is reflected by the fact most clubs adopt best practice when it comes to their website. A surprising exception was Manchester Storm, who have a really weak main menu on their site, despite being fairly prominent elsewhere online. Nottingham Panthers were another who neglected to mention a Club Shop, and tickets (under ‘Off Ice’) and squad were hidden away. Even if a club isn’t overly happy with its shop arrange, they should at least point fans to a page with relevant information.

A few teams use descriptions like “The Giants” when Team or Squad would suffice. We know it’s the Giants, we’re on the Giants website. What about the Giants is it? Likewise, never too keen on “Match” as a menu item, as seen on Coventry Blaze. Fixtures or Schedule much better.

JDG developed the official club website for Glasgow Clan, who of course tick all four boxes!

British Basketball League

A look at the BBL clubs shows them behind their ice hockey equivalents. A few interesting incidents in this review. Cheshire Phoenix group Tickets & Fixtures as a joint menu, but have no shop. Glasgow put their squad and fixtures under the overly elaborate “The Rocks” and “Game Centre” (it’s not ESPN guys), while Plymouth have their key information hidden away under “The Raiders” and “Game Info”. Surrey have recently launched their new site, and it’s terrific – but the menu is cramped because they’ve decided to put fixtures in under “GAMES & STANDINGS”. Why?!

Of the five clubs to achieve a full house, one site was built by JDG – Manchester Giants.

Conclusions

News and multimedia content should be used to drive traffic to your club website, where they will then navigate to the other areas you want them to.

The four key elements are what people will come looking for, and so should be as prominent in the menu as possible, especially for direct traffic.

While things like commercial and community are of course important, these pages should be used as landing pages for pushing in social content and communications, rather than demanding prominence above the four key areas in the menu. People who want to find that information will.

Leave a Comment