Sport on the Internet

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EVEN AFTER the injection of Sky money and razzmatazz, in some quarters there is a lingering stereotype of rugby league as backward-looking at best and hidebound by tradition at worst. Like many stereotypes it is not only wrong, but also unfair - as the Websites of the finalists of Saturday's Silk Cut Challenge Cup at Wembley demonstrate.

The unofficial London Broncos site at the London Internet Forum balances traditional design features and a willingness to experiment with technological developments. It makes use of Microsoft FrontPage extensions for graphical effects that give the site a unique feel. Those who do not vote for Bill Gates when it comes to browser choice may not get the full presentation experience, but the underlying content is the same. An itinerary for 1 May is online, including details of those vital pub stops. A schematic of the stadium is provided to help the over-enthusiastic imbiber get a feel for which way they should head once through the twin towers.

The news and bulletin board is the place for gossip and inside information. Bronco players who went to the Charlton v Spurs football match were pumped by an enterprising fan for information about who is fit for the final and what steps are being taken to attract props to the club.

A nice touch for those who can never work out the words to songs is the online songsheet "We Onle (sic) Sing When We're Winning". Their version of "Hey Big Spender" looks ambitious. Print a copy out, you'll never remember the words otherwise.

Leeds have more tradition to look back on than London but the Rhinos' recently launched official Website is forward- looking. It shares Web space with the Leeds team who play the other code, and is set up for e-commerce in a way that ought to shame the Webmasters of several Premiership football clubs. Wembley 1999 goodies can be purchased online, so too season tickets for Headingley.

The frames hierarchy is unobtrusive and well thought out. As are the bulletin boards, which started only at the beginning of the month. The Challenge Cup section of the boards is the most active - it gives full details of which pubs Rhinos' fans will be stopping off at en route to Wembley.

The boards employ some useful technology that is more like online community software than a mere threaded message list. Within each message, hot links to a profile of registered users is available. Details include the poster's occupation, homepage and e-mail addresses, a log of how often they contribute and so on. That, combined with the boards being moderated by the club press office, means that dialogue is politer than on external newsgroups where discussion by rival fans of key issues gets quite heated.

Virgin Net were promising last week that their "indispensable guide" to the final is coming soon. Might be worth submitting it to a neutrality test, though, seeing as Virgin are one of the Broncos' sponsors and Richard Branson is their chairman.

Site Addresses

London Internet Forum

Leeds Rugby Limited

Virgin Net

Rugby League Newsgroup