We're football crazy, football mad

From 'official' sites set up by clubs to the 'unofficial' shrines built by supporters, the Web now offers unprecedented opportunities to immerse yourself in the beautiful game and all that goes with it. Andrew North finds the back of the Net

First stop in a football tour of the Internet has to be one of the big umbrella sites, as they link to most other sites of interest. I kicked off at the Pure Web site because I liked its slightly chaotic, non-corporate feel. It may not sound like a football service - a name change is definitely needed - but everything seems to be here, whether you are interested in events at Anfield or Albania.

There are links to clubs and leagues across Britain and the rest of the world, online footy magazines, as well as fantasy football competitions. If someone, somewhere, has put up something about football on the Web, chances are there is a link to it here. But Pure Web has still not updated its division lists for the new season, so Leicester City, Derby County and Sunderland are still languishing in the First Division.

Yet another dull title, Rec.Sport.Soccer, runs on the same server and links to the newsgroup of the same name. This site is a more specialised set-up, for fans who want to check up on the official Fifa rules and football terminology. Its main attraction, though, is the online catalogue of football mailing lists (see story at right).

Another general football site that is well worth a visit is the European section of the US Soccer Server. It has many of the links you will find on the Pure Web pages, but there are also several unofficial club pages I did not find anywhere else.

Much more organised than any of these umbrella sites is Soccernet. The bulk of the site is devoted to the Premier League and its clubs. It is extremely easy to use and has a stadium-sized selection of links to clubs and other football sites around Britain and the rest of the globe. It boasts 12 different Manchester United links alone.

One of Soccernet's best features is its fast results service, updating scores as they come in. Makes a nice change from watching your team on Ceefax.

But there are other results services to choose from, as you will see from looking at Pure Web. Take a look at Mabel's Tables and Results, which covers every league from the Premier to the Beazer Homes. For Europe-minded football stattos, there is also a giant Swiss set-up that seems to cover everything, known as Fussballtabellen (literally "Football tables").

Most club sites offer a collection of player snaps. But if you are specifically looking for footy pictures, dribble your way across to Ultimate Soccer.

This is an umbrella site, with links to most of the best-known footy sites, but it also has a big collection of downloadable shots of players from British teams, as well as various European greats.

Football clubs across Europe are represented on the Web, but Britain seems to be way in front, both in terms of the number of clubs and the amount of information and features they provide. To find out what sites have sprung up to represent your team, British or European, just head back to one of the big umbrella sites such as Soccernet or Pure Web.

Surprisingly, despite the wealth they are now enjoying, only a small minority of Premier League clubs have their own official sites. But this gap is more than made up by the noisy, colourful crush of unofficial sites set up by supporters' clubs and individuals, many of them running on university servers. So that is what students do at college these days.

Of the official sites, Manchester United's slick creation is the league leader, followed by Newcastle. But the hundreds of unofficial club sites make a far more lively read. Of the European club sites, Ajax of Amsterdam stands out: the site is packed with news and information on the team, as well as a Java-based chat forum. AC Milan's pages are as slick as you would expect from an Italian side, complete with the voices of all the players.

With so much football activity on the Net, it is hardly surprising that the pools companies have moved in too. Zetters has an online pools service which takes credit card payments. They guarantee the odds on winning are better than on the Lottery.

If you take an academic interest in football and like spending your Saturdays carrying out subtextual analyses of terrace songs, you ought to see what is going on at the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research. Current projects involve research into ethnicity and football spectators.

Pure Web and Soccernet have various links to football magazines and fanzines, including one of the best-known - When Saturday Comes. The Football Supporters' Association has also set up shop on the Web.

The trouble with all this football on the Internet is that there is just too much. By the time you have read through all the hundreds of postings and browsed through all these sites, the season will be over.

Pure Web - List of Football Sites

http://www.atm.ch.cam.ac.uk/sports/webs.html

Rec.Sports.Soccer - The Web Page

http://www.atm.ch.cam.ac.uk/sports/

US Soccer Server

http://www2.Webbernet.net/bob/eur.html

Soccernet

http://soccernet.com/

Ultimate Soccer

http://www.odyssey.com.au/sports/soccer.html

FA Carling Premiership

http://www.fa-carling.com/

Mabel's Tables and Results

http://users.aol.com/mabstabs/soccer.html/

Fussballtabellen

http://iamwww.unibe.ch/ftiwww/Sonstiges/Tabellen/

Ajax Amsterdam

http://www.xs4all.nl/michielh/

AC Milan

http://www.acmilan.it/

Football Supporters' Associations

http://www.fsa.org.uk/

Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research

http://www.le.ac.uk/depts/fo/

When Saturday Comes

http://www.wsc.co.uk/wsc

Football Pools

http://www.zetters.co.uk/

FIFA

http://www.fifa.com

UEFA

http://www.uefa.org

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