When the BBC Sport web site was launched on Monday, 3 July 2000, it was the morning after France had crushed Italy with a golden purpose to win Euro 2000.
The web was a special place. Most houses nonetheless had gradual dial-up entry – if they may get on-line in any respect. Mobile telephones had been for calls and texting solely. And the primary main social community – Friends Reunited – was simply days previous.
In the 20 years since, we have gone from watching sport on clunky large televisions to reside 4K motion on our telephones, and from ready on Ceefax for soccer scores, to having purpose information despatched straight to our watches.
To mark the 20th anniversary of its web site, BBC Sport seems again on the evolution of the positioning and the way the altering wants of sports activities followers has helped form its historical past.
The BBC News web site, which launched in 1997, had lined sport – with a small crew of journalists offering a restricted variety of tales and match studies, together with pop-up protection of the France ’98 World Cup.
But this was to be the beginning of one thing totally different – a devoted sports activities service inside the BBC’s rising on-line website.
Ben Gallop, now head of radio and digital for BBC Sport, was a part of the crew that launched the web site.
He mentioned the ambiance, because the crew raced to fulfill the three July launch deadline, was fevered.
“When we first launched, we were in what was essentially a pre-fabricated office that was an adjunct to Television Centre in London,” he defined.
“We’d been given this house, it was minimize off from everyone else, we may do our personal factor, and this undoubtedly created a way of an actual start-up mentality.
“It’s such a cliche, however the form of all-nighters individuals would do again within the day for these digital launches, it was a part of the tradition of that period.
“It was the dot com boom and everyone fancied a bit of the action.”
The early days of the web site would show a problem for employees, with the preliminary approach newspaper-like in each quantity and timing. In the times earlier than reside textual content protection and streaming video, occasions could be reported on after they’d been accomplished, leaving journalists ready to file their tales.
Anna Thompson, now ladies’s sports activities lead at BBC Sport, joined earlier than the launch – however admits some shifts may very well be lower than hectic to start with earlier than issues actually took off.
“I needed to hitch the game web site as I used to be an enormous sports activities fan and had been a sports activities editor of a day by day regional newspaper earlier than becoming a member of the BBC, so it was proper up my avenue.
“The web site was staffed 24 hours a day again then and I bear in mind evening shifts within the early days when there was little sport or sports activities information occurring.
“My first major event came at the 2002 Winter Olympics, which was tremendously exciting. Who could forget Rhona Martin’s millimetre perfect last stone to win curling gold? It was a privilege to be there.”
The World (of Sport) because it was
The first summer season of the brand new millennium would show to be a busy one for sports activities followers.
- Venus Williams received her first Wimbledon ladies’s championship, whereas Pete Sampras claimed his seventh – and last – males’s title at SW19.
- Manchester United received the Premier League with an 18-point hole to second-placed Arsenal.
- Chelsea beat Aston Villa 1-Zero within the final FA Cup last on the previous Wembley.
- David Coulthard took the chequered flag on the French Grand Prix – though Michael Schumacher would finally be named champion.
- Tiger Woods received the Open for the primary time – making him the youngest participant, at 24, to win all 4 majors.
- Sky paid £1.1bn to land reside Premier League rights whereas ITV secured the highlights package deal – and spent £315m on a deal to indicate the Football League on ITV Digital.
What was primary the week BBC Sport launched?
The design adjustments
The first large take a look at for the BBC Sport web site was the 2000 Olympic Games, held in Sydney.
The website, based mostly on the design for BBC News, was simply 620 pixels huge – excellent for smaller screens again then, however lower than half the present width of the web site.
As the UK’s Olympic broadcaster, overlaying the Games each 4 years could be a serious operation for BBC Sport on-line – and the catalyst for bettering the appear and feel of the positioning for audiences more and more coming on-line for the most recent information.
Before the 2004 Games in Athens, the News and Sport websites had been refreshed to make use of larger screens, stretching one other 300 pixels huge to permit extra tales to be showcased.
More video and reside textual content protection was launched over the next years, permitting guests to the positioning to get pleasure from motion in actual time.
But the most important change to the positioning since its launch would are available 2012, with the eyes of the world on the UK – and the BBC – for the London 2012 Olympics.
Coming simply months after the game crew moved to the BBC’s new base in Salford, the web site was redesigned to showcase the motion from London, with each occasion being streamed on-line.
“The redesign was the first major upgrade to the site for nine years,” mentioned Neil Hall, BBC Sport’s head of product.
“Alongside its new look, it was a complete overhaul of the underlying technology.”
The timing of each the Olympics and the redesign would show to be key within the web site’s growth.
“It really did feel like a moment in time when all this technology and capability was coming together, just when we were going to have the biggest sporting event of our lifetime,” mentioned Gallop.
“We had been actually fortunate, if we’re sincere, that the London Olympics occurred after they did. If our home Games had been 4 years earlier it could have been too quickly, and if it had been 4 years later there would have been a way of ‘we have executed that already’.
“But because London got the Olympics in 2012, we were able to use streamed media, mobile and social media in a way we never had before.”
In the wake of the Olympics, as web utilization continued to evolve, so too did the positioning – with design adjustments to take account of the expansion of cellular gadgets, and the launch of a smartphone app in 2013 that now brings greater than three million guests to the positioning per week.
About that change to yellow…
The 2012 redesign was a controversial second for some customers of the positioning – who felt the company had gone too far in incorporating the yellow color scheme utilized by BBC Sport.
Some invoked Coldplay’s tune Yellow, mentioned the positioning regarded like “an explosion in a web design shop”, and claimed the yellow was “far too bright and uncomfortable on the eyes”.
Gallop insists he has no regrets concerning the swap to yellow – however admits the BBC has discovered a lot from responses to the change.
“We went for a ‘big bang’ redesign,” he mentioned.
“That’s a good way of attracting consideration – but it surely’s maybe extra suited to the types of relaunches you see within the ‘previous media’ world.
“If you wish to take your [digital] viewers with you, we have discovered it is significantly better to go for an iterative approach.
“You might not generate quite as many headlines that way, but equally you’re less likely to turn people off.”
One of the important thing successes of the web site has been the journalism.
Over 20 years the positioning has additionally been on the forefront of breaking and overlaying the most important sport tales – from the Fifa corruption scandal to Dan Roan’s interview with Lance Armstrong, and agenda-setting investigations corresponding to Price of Football, and prize cash inequality in sport.
However, protection of Para-athletes, ladies’s sport and the UK’s lesser-known success tales have all the time sat alongside the large headlines.
Industry professional Stephen Lepitak, govt editor of The Drum journal, believes public service dedication and depth of protection has been a key a part of the positioning’s success.
“For me, it’s the only place where I think the grassroots still gets covered,” he mentioned.
“Numerous sports activities wouldn’t get a lot protection with out BBC Sport on-line in any respect. The thought of not having that will be devastating for the sports activities business.
“It’s a site that has trust.”
Five of BBC Sport Online’s largest days
|Date||What occurred that day||UK browsers|
|14 Aug 2016||Rio Olympics day 9 & Gary Lineker presents Match of the Day in his pants||14.5m|
|16 June 2016||Euro 2016: England v Wales||11.7m|
|7 July 2018||World Cup 2018: Sweden v England||10.4m|
|15 May 2016||Old Trafford bomb scare causes match postponement||10.2m|
|27 Oct 2019||Rugby World Cup 2019: Wales v South Africa||10.2m|
In 2012, greater than 11.5 million individuals within the UK used the BBC Sport web site every week. By 2020, that quantity had grown to 21.Three million, with hundreds of thousands extra visiting from abroad and following BBC Sport’s social media accounts.
But what comes subsequent?
As the web site enters a 3rd decade, the world once more seems a special place. Months of sporting occasions had been postponed because the affect of Covid-19 hit the world, with the cultural and social affect more likely to be felt for years to return.
With elevated competitors from new web sites, and the price of sports activities rights growing, the BBC faces extra challenges than earlier than to offer audiences with the protection it desires.
However, Lepitak feels these prices may even allow the BBC to play an more and more essential position for the broader viewers.
“We’re getting to a degree the place subscriptions are being launched proper, left and centre as a result of media firms want income, and lots of people cannot afford that.
“So BBC Sport is there as a service to the public who possibly can’t afford those to still have access to sport.”
And for Gallop? After 20 years of watching how sports activities protection has advanced, he believes the positioning has a key position in bringing audiences collectively.
“We can see how sports media is evolving,” mentioned Gallop.
“We know there may be extra curiosity within the tales across the sport itself and the enjoyable and leisure that include it, so I can solely see that facet of our output rising – to enrich the information and reside protection that may all the time be the mainstay of our web site.
“Increasingly the viewers will play a extra energetic position. Sport in lockdown has supplied a problem – with crowds shut out of the grounds, there may be much more want for followers to return collectively just about.
“I’m fascinated by the role we can play here.”
You can learn extra concerning the launch of the BBC Sport web site at History of the BBC.