Euro 2008: The websites - Switzerland & the Czech Republic
After years of organisation and planning, Euro 2008 kicks off tonight in Switzerland. England, of course, after the debacle of their final qualifying match against Croatia, will not be there.
The last time England failed to qualify for a Euro finals was in 1984. In a way, that might make for a more entertaining tournament for me to watch. I remember enjoying the World Cup in the USA in 1994 precisely because every goal didn't involve me instantly trying to re-configure in my mind who England were likely to have met in the semi-final if they had not been inevitably eliminated on penalties at the quarter final stage.
European Championships are a massive media event these days, to the extent that even without 'Home Nations' representation, it would be impossible for the BBC and ITV not to show the games. That also means an extensive round of online coverage of the tournament.
If England had qualified, I've no doubt that the FA would have invested heavily in their website coverage of the tournament, and so I was interested in what the 16 Football Associations of the nations taking part were doing online. Over the course of the opening stages of Euro 2008, I'll be reviewing those sites, starting with those belonging to the two teams in tonight's opening fixture in Basel.
Regardless of the results over the next few weeks, Switzerland have already got one award in the bag, having the FA with the most official names - variously Schweizerischer Fussballverband, Association Suisse de Football, Associazione Svizzera di Football and Associaziun Svizra da Ballape depending on your flavour of Swiss tongue. No wonder they've opted for the neutral www.football.ch as their website domain name.
It is very noticeable that despite being on the verge of hosting their biggest football event since the World Cup in 1954, the Swiss FA has very little to say on their website about Euro2008. There is a text link to the official UEFA site and, erm, well, that was about it. There isn't even a logo for the tournament on display, and it must be the only Swiss website I've visited in the last month that didn't have some kind of clock ticking down to kick-off.
When I checked the site, the main thrust seemed to be selling tickets for Switzerland's pre-tournament friendlies. There was some news coverage of the provisional squad announcement, but this was just portrayed as a run-of-the-mill news story, not a key event along the way to staging the championship.
Not surprising for a country with several languages, the site has versions in German, French and Italian. As I'm reviewing these sites, I'm looking out for which FAs have been adopting the features of web 2.0 or getting really interactive online. Switzerland scored very low in this comparison, with no RSS feeds, no message board or forums, no voting and definitely no audio or video content.
Most people would argue that the Czech Republic are more likely to make progress in the tournament than the hosts that they face this evening. Off the pitch, given the lacklustre nature of the Swiss FA's web offering, you expect them to come out on top in this comparison as well.
The Českomoravský fotbalový svaz site gets off to a better start from the point of view of promoting Euro 2008 straight away, with a massive countdown to the kick-off of the opening match.
The Czech Republic site had a whole dedicated section for the Euro 2008 tournament.
Like the Swiss FA, the Czech site was short of interactive features - well, unless my nosing around the site and failure to grasp much of the Czech language prevented me finding them. There certainly didn't seem to be anything resembling an online vote, or any message boards or forums. There were no RSS feeds either.
Where there was a contrast was in the provision of video and multimedia content. There was an area of the site dedicated to audio and video content which included clips of the Czech Republic's qualifying campaign.
In tomorrow's Group B matches, Switzerland's co-hosts, Austria, kick off their campaign in Vienna against the country that turned out to be the nemesis of England's qualifying campaign - Croatia. So I'll be running my eye over the Croatian and Austrian FA's sites.