Sport on the Internet

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the buzz words in Internet circles is "community". Although many companies with an eye to e-commerce use it as a synonym for "customers", there are still places online where it is used in its original meanings to do with shared interests and a sense of locality. Football sites dedicated to individual teams are prime examples of Internet communities. Places to go where wounds can be licked, grievances aired and shared, hope renewed.

Nottingham Forest supporters, more than most, have been in need of that since defeat by Aston Villa in April led to relegation and Ron Atkinson's resignation. The Official Site was a useful focus in the time of speculation about the search for a new manager that ended last week. Not that early news of David Platt's appointment was flagged on the site. However, when the press conference announcing Atkinson's successor was held, it wasn't long before details were posted and an official e-mail sent out to registered site users.

Rumours abounded on- and off-line during the day. The Net is good at rumours, and members of the unofficial NFFC e-mail list (which is linked from the official site) kept abreast of them in more or less real time as list members found information and conjecture on assorted news sites and shared them with the list. It is the sort of cheap, immediate and interactive contact between hundreds of people scattered all over the globe that only the Internet can make work.

As is typical with mailing lists, fact and opinion were as liberally mixed about the new manager as they had been about other candidates and the changes at board level. As names came and went - O'Neil, Houghton, Evans, Hoddle et al - members argued pros and cons (especially cons), considered putting forward a list of members skilled at the game Championship Manager III to take over at the City Ground and explored the possibility of innovative new chants.

Fans have voices and embrace the Net to make them heard. Talkback is a Web-based message board dedicated to Forest that pulls few punches. Its strength lies in its ability to maintain an easily accessible threaded archive of discussions, and its attitude. "[Talkback] is a satirical site," the front page warns. "Believe nothing, take nothing seriously. The hosts of the site take no responsibility for the messages posted by visitors."

Following leads and trying to evaluate rumours on the Net usually calls for plenty of groundwork. Forest fans have it relatively easy, though, whether a new manager is imminent or not. Borge Haga's Nottingham Forest Pressroom is an excellent and innovative resource. It monitors the output of news and media organisations, updating them every hour, sniffing out Forest mentions and, separately, general football news. Content is not reproduced, but a list of headlines is offered, wire style, beneath the logo of each organisation. Each headline is a live link direct to the source. Chat facilities are included as well as a section dedicated to listing transfer speculation.

Site Addresses

Official Nottingham Forest On-Line

http://www.nottinghamforest.co.uk/

Talkback

http://www.x-pointcgi.com/cgi-bin/users/3171/wwwboard/wwwboard.html

Nottingham Forest Pressroom

http://home.sol.no/borgeh/forest.html

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