FIFA Web site looks to 2006
LONDON, England -- FIFA is celebrating the success of its official World Cup Web site and already looking for lessons it can learn for the 2006 tournament in Germany.
The official site is recording millions of single visitors every day and has so far steered clear of serious technical problems, FIFA says.
Charles-Henry Contamine, head of FIFA's Internet operations, said the site had been popular with fans because it struck the right balance between independent journalism and the FIFA line.
While the World Cup has thrown up surprises it has not been without controversy.
Italian and Spanish fans and squads, angry at their elimination by the co-host South Korea, have blamed poor refereeing decisions.
And fans at the finals have been frustrated by attempts to sell last-minute tickets over the Internet.
Contamine says the ticketing problems are separate to the FIFAworldcup.com site, but are reflected within it.
"FIFAworldcup.com has been used to inform fans of last minute ticket sales ... but ticket sales are not the responsibility of the site.
"The polemics on referees have been handled through various stories -- both our own and some news feeds -- but we will obviously not follow the Italian or Spanish press criticisms.
"If fans come back so often it is because our editorial work is credible. As a former journalist I think we'd better tell things as they are."
FIFA has gathered a team of 20 journalists of 10 nationalities to work on the site providing news, background, statistics and match reports in seven languages.
Around 20 staff from Yahoo! are also working on the site out of South Korea and company headquarters in California with further support offered by offices in Europe and Asia.
Contamine said: "This team allows us to offer unbiased and global football coverage which fans seem to appreciate. This fans approach is a first for FIFA and works very well.
"Match reports are written during the game and sent piece by piece to translation in six other languages.
"A full English report is available by 10 minutes after the final whistle. Other languages have a short report available by the final whistle and a full one by 45-60 minutes after.
"When you think about Korean, Japanese and Chinese translations it is an excellent turnaround time."
Since the site was launched on December 1, 2001 there have been 68 million single visitors and 1.75 billion page views, FIFA says.
During the tournament the highest traffic was seen when Japan played Turkey and South Korea met Italy in the second round on June 18. FIFA recorded 127 million page views.
With traffic that would cripple most sites Contamine says: "The site has always been flying and very easily accessible to any user in the world.
"On May 31 for the opening game the level of traffic on the Internet was unbelievable and all sports sites suffered quite heavily. FIFAworldcup.com was always accessible."
As the 2002 site employed lessons learned during France 98 FIFA's Internet arm is already looking to see how it improve for Germany 2006.
Contamine said: "We already have ideas about a much more integrated product gathering excellent content, good commercialisation and services but we need to build up a long-term plan that is flexible enough to take advantage of technological advances.
"Terrific traffic and excellent critics prove that FIFA has taken the right step towards the fans and FIFA has clearly positioned itself on top of the market.
"We look forward to improving our relationship with fans in the next months and years."
Looking to the future he believes FIFA are on the right track and can, like many of the world's traditional footballing superpowers, look forward to a good tournament in 2006.
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