The takeover saga certainly has highlighted one or two things. The club has insisted on non-disclosure over the deal with the Middle Eastern consortium according to our sources, and this has left fans poorly informed all summer. But it’s worse than that, the incompetence of Leeds United’s media division has left a vacuum online in this new age of information, and has embarrassed itself by working to a lower standard than several amateur Leeds blogs written by fans voluntarily in their spare time.
Clubs nowadays like to keep in touch with their fans. In an age where our phones double as web-browsers, and more and more people are able to spend time online, it is stupid for clubs not to get out there. Yet Leeds United is still rooted firmly in the dark ages with a website, and a couple of staff’s personal accounts.
Let’s face it, having a website is nothing special. About a decade ago it became the in-thing to have your own space, whether you paid for a server and web-design, or used Angelfire or the like. Nowadays, individual players keep fans updated. Joey Barton has his own site going on blog, THE Robbie Rogers (dot com) has his own site, while 15 year old Leeds youth Emilio Oliver even has his own.
And Leeds’ website isn’t even particularly good. Go to leedsunited.com, and all of a sudden Neil Warnock is explaining what he thought of the Burton match at top voice without prompt (it beats Ben Fry), I’m being advertised at by Sky Sports and ESPN (beats the sometime Manchester United adverts), while I’m bombarded with so many flashing ads about insurance, shirts, and betting sites it looks like the kind of site I was warned not to visit as a kid as it’d pack up my parents’ PC with spyware.
And in an age where mobile phones make up roughly 20% of web-traffic in first world countries, Leeds United’s attempt at a mobile site is a joke. On the 25th of July I tweeted the head of media and press officer at the club, Paul Dews, that the “OS [official site] redirects to mobile on my [phone,] which is fine except the [mobile] version is never updated… I could open normal site if it let me.” I got a retweet, then a reply. Not from Dews, from another fan saying “This has been an issue since the mob version was released, articles take a few hours to appear”. Then another: “They’ve known about it for ages mate. … Told them weeks ago it was f*cked and nothing”. I got no reply from Dews.
The mobile site was again a source of controversy last week. 2-3 people I talked to about the squad numbers assigned to Leeds players, seemed under the impression that Luciano Becchio had not been given a squad number. It was, in fact, yet another error with the mobile site which omitted him. I received assurances on Twitter that he was number 10 on the site, telling people it was another mobile-site issue, I received another tweet of frustration: “they need to sort the mobile site out. Half the time it doesn’t even load the stories.” Again, no answer from Dews.
Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t expect a reply from the self-styled “Dewsy”. He labels his account as personal, even though he uses it to answer fans’ questions and problem-solve in his professional capacity. Certainly, you wouldn’t want a professional account littered with cringe-worthy “banter” with the players that seem out of place in anybody aged over 15. This is a problem for the club. Thom Kirwin is probably the other source for official information for fans, whether it’s updates on LUTV or tasters of his latest interviews. The nice-guy commentator damaged his reputation slightly when it was revealed he pounced onto the anti-Levi bandwagon, asking the club if he should use of the crimewatch theme while taking part in Levi’s harrassment. But not as badly as “Dewsy” Dews. Being the one-stop for Leeds issues online, Dews’ personal account draws a lot of attention. And when he began talking to some young female fans on Twitter, insinuations began to appear on one Leeds forum resulting in an apparent legal threat and the forum being taken down for a time. Unfortunate, really, but it highlights the problems of people mixing professional and personal hats, even if they feel they have a get-out clause by sticking “personal” in their biography. In fact, it was hardly a P.R. success, with Dews now the butt of many a joke online.
In fact, the club’s media has become a running joke. Criticisms of the poor quality of LUTV, the fact the small-print until recently read “Chelsea”, and problems with browsing the club’s site are very common. Forums play host to regular jokes about the pathetic spelling and grammar on the official site, while gaffes such as reporting the late PC Rathband “watched” training in 2010 hardly put the club in the best light.
Now Melvyn Levi’s court case has shown Ken Bates harassed him in a cold and calculated manner that could have been illegal, using his programme notes and official radio station, you have to ask what sort of a job the Leeds United media department is doing? Let’s hope for a clean sweep and a decent level of funding from our new owners, once the takeover’s complete.