Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Consider the Provincial Association Websites

You can learn a lot about an organization from the quality of their website. Fair? I for example am not a design oriented person, although I would like to be. The idea of changing this template for something unique and original by screwing around with code or risking the download of someone foreign layout gives me nightmares. But in the meantime, you get these free, relatively independent-minded and somewhat regularly updated posts. So, neat trade off, even though you wouldn't know this website from Joseph (or the 24thminute) from the look of it. Plus, I'm just one guy working three jobs at the moment.

Yesterday I spent a great deal of time tinkering with my reader feeds, adding new ones, dropping dead ones, and as such I thought it would be good to add some feeds from the various Provincial Association websites. Let's begin with the capo di capo, the CSA website.

Please, and I'm serious here, if you can find an RSS feed for their news section, send it to me. There isn't even a news page as such, just an article with a drop down bar for archived news items. The items aren't categorized, and most of the items with a few exceptions have been covered in more detail elsewhere. There is also a stodgy feel to the site design in general. The CSA isn't alone in the crappy soccer website department (FIFA's is so awful you know the design was awarded to somebody's relative for about 100 million do—Snip! AMSL Lawyers), but it wouldn't take much investment to get a decent designer to come in and wildly improve the thing.

Intrigued by this crappiness, I went on to carefully examine the other provincial websites (all available on the CSA mainpage), most with garish and crowded CSS styled homepages, almost all without RSS news feeds. Some hadn't updated news in a few weeks (the Yukon's, while relatively attractive, hasn't had news updates since March). Maybe there's not much going on, but even if you have to put up a reminder, or a set of important links, websites live and die on up-to-date content.

The winner? Newfoundland and Labrador. Simple Wordpress layout, all pertinent links boringly but obviously laid out on a blue background, RSS feed clearly available, multiple news items dated to November 3rd. That still isn't saying much though; they don't have a proper domain name ('ehosting' still in there? It's ten bucks a year to get your own domain people), there are some pages with almost no content, and registration dates long past relevance, but at least the basics are there.

What does this tell you about the CSA and the Provincial Associations? In my experience, if an organization with major oversight—in this case, associations responsible for overseeing and regulating the most popular recreational sport in the country—can't or don't know how to go about providing decent, updated web content, readable news feeds, and clear site navigation, it means the organization doesn't have the time, or the wherewithal, or the resources to care.

If an organization can't get something like a website right, what does it tell you about their ability to deal with FIFA directives, changes in the player development models, or problems at the national team level? They might not think their websites are that important, but in the modern age if anyone wants to know anything about an organization, they go to the web first. That includes parents, scouts, prospective national team managers, whoever. Surely it would be a good idea for a) the provincial sites to pitch in and agree on a network-type set up, with at least some attempt at streamlining site designs, and b) working to generate better web content. I guess that means c) it will never happen. This is elementary people.


Brad said...

I have to disagree, a little, with your closing statement that parents are destined to head directly to the website to get information on a provincial organization. If a parent gets a message from a coach, or a club, that their child is invited to a tryout for the provincial program; they take their kid to the tryout. Period. They don't care about HTML, nor domain registration, they care that their child is invited.

I agree that there is very little to making sprucing additions to create a more esthetically pleasing organization of soccer as a whole in this country, but, you're making assumptions about peoples habits that aren't fact. Provincial tryouts demand one question... when/where?

Richard Whittall said...

From a practical standpoint, you're probably correct, but therein lies the issue: if the scope and vision of the provincial associations is merely to let little Johnny know when provincial tryouts are, then why do they wield so much power over the national team set-up, or the ideological direction that soccer should take in this country?

Why should the provinces have as much say as they do at the national level when all they care about is filling their provincial rosters and collecting registration money? Why should I trust them to make a call on the SAAC? For all the vision talked about at the CSA, you see very little of it farther down the food chain, and therein lies the problem...

Brad said...

I agree with you, and I am enjoying your articles on the state of the game. My point was more that the parents of these kids care infinitely more about their child and ensuring they're enjoying their soccer experience than about the state of the sport in this country which doesn't happen in other major sports in Canada.

Keep up the great writing,


Richard Whittall said...


And I would only add that I think the limitations of parental interest is a problem that in part springs out of the current organizational set up.

Post on this coming! Thanks for commenting,


Jeff said...

Well... just to save Sask face, I do know the SSA is planning on giving their website a complete face lift sometime within the next year. I'll have to mention the RSS feed so you can keep up to date on what's happening here in the flatlands.

Blog said...

Check if The OSA News Bulletin meets some of your specs.

Join This Blog describes the potential of RSS and was posted upon launch on January 3rd, 2006.

As you point out almost 4 years later, major Canadian soccer organizations have yet to recognize the benefits of RSS in communicating with their membership and the soccer community at large, and only a few provide this service.

Provided such organizations do have a bona fide "News Page" on their website, one work-around used to populate some of the News Pages links with RSS Feeds from soccer websites around the world in The OSA News Bulletin is provided by ... but this requires the blogger to pay an annual fee for FeedYes to maintain regular RSS Feed updates.

The Livermans of St. John's said...

ehosting comes up when you go to the site but you'll find that takes you to the NL soccer association. thanks for the compliment anyway, the site was designed and is run by volunteers