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The admin teams behind several Rivals.net fan sites have left en masse, saying the Sky-owned portal’s technology is outdated.
The rebels have set up a new sports network called Clubfanzine and claim around 40 Rivals sites have agreed to jump ship, including those of Premiership clubs Newcastle, Middlesborough and Derby County.
This is bad news for Sky, especially given the timing, just days after the new football season started.
The editors of the fan sites say the new Clubfanzine portal, although clearly incomplete, will offer a more flexible platform and allow them to develop more interactive features.
Rivals, which was taken over by Sky when it bought 365 Media (then ukbetting) last year, is yet to comment, so it's not clear what impact the move will have on its figures.
It says it forms the largest network of unofficial club sites in the UK with over 1m visitors a month.
Announcing the move, the editor of Southampton’s fan site wrote:
“It wasn’t a decision taken lightly to leave, but with approximately 40 of my fellow Rivals editors committed to the move it was one I thought essential.”
This is going to hurt Sky. It appears that the editors of these fan sites feel somewhat left out in the cold by the new owners of Rivals, with claims being made about Sky pursuing a new direction for the sports network.
"Sky have made no contact with regards to the site and seem content to head towards a Facebook-type network based on early designs shown," claims Robert Nichols at Fly Me To The Moon, the Middlesbrough fan site.
The fan sites are already migrating their technology to become independent from Rivals. Users have started re-registering to be able to post and reply to messages on the new message boards. Many have accepted the need for change, but others appear aggrieved with the transition.
We're starting to wonder whether Sky has left it too late to act?