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Fan Nets World Cup Winner - Sunday Express

February 4th 2001 Briton living in Japan looks set to score with his website dedicated to next year's cash-rich tournament.
RICHARD PHILLIPS logs on

While football fans are looking forward to next year's World Cup in Japan and South Korea, entrepreneurs in cyberland have also been rubbing their hands at the commercial opportunities on offer. For quick-witted operators, cashing in on World Cup mania could prove an inspired move.
This is one of the biggest marketing extravaganzas on the planet - only the Olympic Games can eclipse it for the wealth of corporate involvement and wall-to-wall marketing opportunities. Dozens of firms are shelling out hundreds of millions of pounds on assorted sponsorship deals.
Television rights for the tournament have soared into the stratosphere. As the planet has converted from terrestrial and public service television to subscription-driven broadcasting, Fifa soccer's ruling body has picked up a guaranteed minimum of 1.3 billion Swiss francs (539 million pounds) for the TV rights, with the final amount set to be much higher.
The figures are way above those paid for the TV rights to 1998's World Cup in France. Andreas Herren, a spokesman for Fifa in Zurich, explained: “The World Cup 2002 represents a quantum leap for Fifa.”
Less a quantum leap more an out-of-control explosion. In 1998 ITV and the BBC paid just 4 million pounds each through a deal drawn up in 1989.
The audience figures were so enormous that ITV could charge 280,000 pounds for each 30-second advertisement during the final.
Yet the UK television rights for 2002 are likely to go for a staggering 166 million pounds. It means sports fans without subscriptions to the likes of Sky or a cable company could miss out. Fifa rules provide that fans should not have to pay to watch the World Cup.
But it looks as if, unless a British team qualifies, supporters will be able to see pitifully few matches.
Should a UK team qualify, the situation will improve a little. Around the globe, however, one consequence is that many fans who rely on public service broadcasting will have to whistle among themselves. On the other hand, supporters face further problems if England, for example, do manage to get to the final rounds. South Korea and Japan, if nothing else, are the most exotic destinations in the history of the tournament. But few fans will be equipped for the culture shock of visiting these Asian nations for the first time.
Football fan Philip Beech, co founder of soccerphile.com, believes that is where his website could prove invaluable.
Beech, an expatriate based in Japan, says Soccerphile is designed to give fans a guide to the two countries, their history and culture. And it will help them to understand what Beech says remain relatively unknown countries to Westerners.
Beech, who has lived in Japan 11 years and has a Japanese wife, got the idea for his site after he was unable to discover on the Net any information targeted at the discerning fan anxious to make the most of a Far East trip.
“The site will try to explain Japan and Korea, some of their history, without dumbing down, as well as providing news on the competition,” says Beech.
He points to the official Fifa site, which sketches a history of Japan but omits all mention of the Second World War.
At present he is looking for backing but has signed a number of commercial partners, including a US ticketing company and a specialist British football book site. The objective is to provide fans with a complete package for the tournament - from information on traveling to the stadia to booking flights and making hotel reservations. Revenues will come from advertising and possible sponsors, in addition to flight, travel and accommodation deals.
Content is not a problem - the site is also busy recruiting foreign language writers with sections to appear in Portuguese and Dutch. The editorial has tidbits of local information, which should appeal to most fans.
One cheery feature features Leslie Mottram, a Scottish-born referee who has been voted the best man in the middle in Japan for the past three years.
So far Soccerphile is one of two sites to have made a pitch for the World Cup. Its main rival is Fifa itself. Spokesman Herren explains that his organization wants to dominate web coverage of the tournament, a move based in part on satisfying the needs of its sponsors, which include Gillette, Adidas, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Fuji Film and Macdonald's.
Fifa will provide information on the World Cup through two sites. Fifa.com the official Fifa platform, where fans can find detailed information on the tournament. There will also be links to fifaworldcup.com - a site that will promote the role of the sponsors more extensively. It is managed by ISL, the Swiss marketing and management agency that has won all the rights to the World Cup.
Herren says the aim of Fifa is to provide a total service to fans so they return to the two sites for all their needs in the run-up to the competition and when it is staged with the home nations hopefully making headway.


Sunday Express Feb. 4th 2001
Reproduced with the kind permission of Express Newspapers.

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