Over the years, it’s often been a struggle to clarify rumours from the truth and hard to gain an insight into the club, leaving fans left out. Not anymore.
After the Club won the award for Best Matchday Programme at last night’s Football League Awards, people stated on Twitter that Darren Bentley and his media team are a credit to the club, which in turn got me thinking about wider communication issues surrounding the club and how far we as fans have come in being able to voice our opinions and get information fast.
There was a day when we all relied on several forums for all our information, leaving a massive oportunity for false news to be spread and great headaches for the club in trying to deal with things that simply weren’t happening. Since the start of last season, though, things have changing.
One particular aspect that has changed things is a certain social networking site named Twitter. Twitter is a fantastic resource for any news source or organisation to use. And that applies to football clubs too: a few months after I joined Twitter, I noticed @mcfc were making waves with their somewhat revolutionary use of the site. I subsequently wished Burnley would keep up with the times and take a step into the unknown, uncontrollable world of Twitter. What more could fans want? A continual place to find information, ask questions and generally get involved with the Club.
So when I found out the Club’s media manager Bentley had joined Twitter as a trial, back in January 2011, I thought it could only be a big thing. As well as January marking the dawn of a new era on the pitch, it was also the start an extension of the club’s relations with fans, off it.
But the real start of extended reach was during the summer of the previous year. Those at the Club with a say had decided to put more investment into Clarets Player, transforming a shoddy man-with-a-video-camera-job into full HD, professional content complete with digital on-screen graphics! (No words can describe my strange joy at finding I had something nice to look at!)
However, the effort to “bring the boys to you” (as a later marketing campaign pointed out) wasn’t easy. Once again, the decision had been made by those at the Club to rule out a renewed deal for all matches to be broadcast on local radio, after the station in question rebuffed the offer on the table, leaving Clarets Player with exclusive commentary for the majority of games. Worries were raised over the elderly, with people pointing out that the more aged Burnley fans weren’t able to work a computer, never mind find and pay for exclusive commentary on it. The commentary itself gained criticism, with “too much bias” for some people’s liking, as well as an unreliable service. All valid problems.
Some of those problems are still problems. The elderly aren’t catered for still and the commentary remains a little giddy at times (although that’s the fault of co-commentators, often). The unreliable service has mostly been sorted, yet that was never in the club’s control. But the heavy investment into equipment and a dedicated videographer has improved the system vastly and one that is profitable to the club.
Anyway – back to the rise of Twitter – the club launched an “official feed” (as opposed to Darren’s ‘insight’ feed) earlier this year and that medium continue to grow as a result. On the playing side of things as a natural result of a rise in popularity of the site, more players have joined (and departed) and those who do interact, interact well. Marvin Bartley is a massive advocate for communicating with fans – ask him a question and he’ll usually answer. I remember having a chat with David Edgar along with a few fellow #twitterclarets. All of this is a sign of a new age in football’s move towards a more interactive, closer game.
However, Twitter for players is not without its draw backs. Fake accounts (don’t get me started on them – why do it if they’re not funny?!) and hackings have all occured (Keith Treacy, cough) which have caused headaches for the club, despite being rather hilarious. Abuse also knows no bounds on Twitter and often leads to players deleting their accounts. But still, the limited few players left are good fun still.
The overarching message is that we as fans, are very lucky in how the club have developed their communication methods. Many clubs simply do not offer the sort of openess that Burnley do. Things aren’t just changing in the dedicated departments though. Brendan Flood recently joined Twitter and is willing to interact with fans and the appointment of a new CEO sees a very communicative person in Lee Hoos.
Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. Many aren’t satisfied with the replies they recieve when they do reach out to the people in the know and the website design and user interface is quite simply shocking, still. The standard is set by a rare few that have the resources to invest heavily in all aspects of media communication, but Burnley do a good job in keeping up. Whatever your opinion on individuals involved, the efforts of the whole team, from the graphic design team (that’s all part of communication too) to the board room, the Burnley team to the videographer, are something to be proud of as a club.
I’ll leave you with some well-wishing tweets from last night.
“Fantastic! Well done! This was no one off – consistent high standard is rightly recognized and honoured” – @ProfCOD
“Hats off to all concerned. Top effort but let’s go one step more now and make it even better next year. Up the clarets” – @stato_pato97
“Well done guys for winning best prog…well deserved. You are a credit to Burnley football club
#twitterclarets” – @j17hey
“@andymc444: @dazbentleybfc congratulations to you and your staff. Consistantly brilliant. >> I’ll second that Daz well done to all.” – @MarlonBeresford
Reading elsewhere on the web:
Edited: 12/03 at 20.15 to amend information about local radio and Clarets Player