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I've got to write this review because I've only just read rachels_ratty review of the site in another section of Ciao and feel I need to balance the argument.
I first heard about 365 about three years ago when journalist and pundit Danny Kelly was in charge of matters. It took a while for me to get around to going there but when I did it was obvious that this was a site Kelly had overseen. In depth news on all the top stories, statistics that would keep even the most ardent fan occupied for hours, opinions by top columnists (including Andy Gray, John Nicholson and Kelly himself) and fun features such as Mediawatch, lookalikes and picture gags. I'd been expecting a soul-less football factfile run by people who had seen about two matches in their life and they were both on the TV. I was wrong, thankfully.
What I'll say first of all about the layout is that it could be better. Whilst there is a news ticker, links to the latest articles, columnists and features it is quite difficult to spot what you want at first glance. Much of the home page just feels too bunched up and unless like me, you're a regular visitor you'll have to search a little for what you want. Links to all the statistics, club pages, tables and the like is to the left of the page, The main news summary is centred, with the top story in bold near the top with other stories listed below. To the right of these are links to other main pages such as the columnists, competitions and regular features. These are interchangeable as and when new columns are written and when pages are updated. Against a plain white
background though, at least the layout will not send you blind trying to pick out links against some horrible multiclour effort or picture background.
Getting around the site gets easier the more you visit it. Once you get used to where everything is located you can be looking at reviews, reports and previews in one or two clicks. The site lacks actual icons to click on as opposed to text links. Personally, I find clicking an icon far simpler than looking out for a text. Homepages like 365's that contain tons of text need to break some of it up with icons otherwise newcomers can get put off very early on in their visit. I know I found links to some sections very hard to find simply because I had to look for text links rather than a one click option of an icon.
The sites pages load in double-quick time because most of what they contain is text. Flash and other animations are rare and pictures are kept to manageable sizes, so anyone with a standard dial-up connection will find pages uploading in seconds rather than minutes. Those on broadband have no worries and will get their pages instantly.
As most of what Football365 does is bring the latest news and opinion, updated content is important and this is done very well. Sites like Ananova, Yahoo news, the Press association and BBC sites are regularly scoured for breaking news and quotes and very few stories are missed. If anything this can also be a drawback as on heavier news days, stories from earlier in the day are pushed to the back as the newer ones roll in. Still, you can never have too much football news in my opinion.
As I've said, the stats pages are second to none, with reports from all weekend games, league tables, top scorers and other info all broken down with percentages and averages available to see. The news stories centre on just that - news. Pictures are kept small and news content kept prominent. If it's pictures you want, your club site is a better bet. Or buy a tabloid. The fun sections of 365 are my favourite parts. The mediawatch column keeps an eye on newspaper reports as well as TV and radio coverage and then proceeds to rip it to shreds, spotting mistakes, bloopers and slips of the tongue. Updated everyday this is the light-hearted side of the site and is clearly Danny Kelly's brainchild as he is the king of taking the mickey out of nonsense reporting and made-up quotes. Mediawatch aside, there are regular picture gags with the usual snaps of footballers caught in unusual poses and with stupid expressions on their faces, leading to funny captions and other ridiculing. The home page also contains a daily look-a-like section with some pretty accurate doppelgangers.
The regular columns by the likes of Andy Gray and especially John Nicholson are nothing less than honest. Whilst Gray's opinions are what you'd regularly expect of someone who has played the game, Nicholson provokes regular debate with his man in the stands style of writing. Very rarely are there throwaway columns written on 365. Whilst the writers may vary, the content in them is nothing less that consistently solid.
Other areas to look at are links to all the rivals.net pages where fans from clubs across the country host sites for their own teams with messageboards, news and banter between - you guessed it - rival fans. There's also the 365 shop that has clothing and merchandise for not only the site itself but funny t-shirts and merchandise for other sports, too.
Elsewhere there's also a moderated chat board that unfortunately sometimes goes off-topic despite the moderation. Conversations about where you can find the best porn as well as rival supporters having a go at each other really should get censored. Luckily this looks like it's being improved and hopefully this year should see a better-run board.
My biggest gripe with 365 though is the pop-up ads. I've got pop-up stopper, have aggressive popup control functions but these ads still get through. They're mostly the floating ads that follow you down the page as you scroll. Whilst they're all closeable, I'd prefer they weren't there at all. The site is already sponsored and is part of a large network of sites so they don't need this revenue that can only serve to drive people away.
All in all though, if you like football you'll like this site. I agree with Rach's comments that it doesn't have a lot for the lower division clubs but as part of the rivals network it does have links where fans of these clubs can go. If it tried to put up content for all 92 league clubs plus the scottish ones, it'd need to be ten times the size and to be honest the site doesn't need that. The focus is on the bigger news that interests the majority. Specific teams don't interest everbody. It's all about general football not everything football and that is what most people will want.