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FeaturesMelting potSportingintelligence: One year young this week. Honoured to be honoured. Thank you.

Sportingintelligence: One year young this week. Honoured to be honoured. Thank you.

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By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

9 March 2011

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Sportingintelligence is celebrating its first birthday.

Although you’ll find articles on the site that pre-date March 2010 by a month or three, it was a year ago precisely that the site went fully live for the first time. The ‘holding page’ came off then and we were open for business  – and brickbats.

It’s been a steep learning curve, and we wouldn’t have got this far without the help and input of a huge number of people, more of which in a minute.

Credit: Steve Rowe / SJA

On Monday evening, I was enormously fortunate, and honoured, to win the Sports Journalists’ Association Internet Sports Writer of the Year award at the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, for a portfolio of stories first published on this website. The trophy was presented (left) by Jackie Brock-Doyle, director of comms and public affairs at London 2012.

As any journalist will confirm, writing on the internet, and in the age of Twitter, attracts instant reader feedback, often of the challenging variety. It’s safe to say that some of my stories in 2010 didn’t always get the smoothest reaction from readers, whether they were Liverpool fans desperate for new owners who didn’t want to believe Kenny Huang’s true ‘credentials’, or people who thought John Higgins was 100 per cent guilty as portrayed in a sting – before a full investigation effectively exonerated him of any match-fixing.

On the other hand, there was some relief – mixed with horror – from Portsmouth fans when we were the first to publish extracts from the administrator’s detailed report into the club’s astonishing losses, shining some light on how the meltdown unfolded.

There was also a lot of interest in a secret Fifa document that could be seen in a new light after Jack Warner had lied to England’s 2018 bid team. And sportingintelligence’s inaugural report of global sports salaries, which compares what clubs in different sports earn around the world, and analyses pay and performance, garnered more attention internationally that we could ever have imagined.

A full list of winners at Monday’s event, which was sponsored by UK Sport, can be found here.

What I wasn’t able to say adequately in my bumbling short speech were the many personal ‘thank you’s to all the people who have contributed to this site and who have supported it.

I dedicate the award to all of them, not least my brilliant stats man Brian Sears, my good friend and wonderful writer John Roberts, the multi-talented and massively enthusiastic tennis nut Alex Willis, the financially-minded digger Alex Miller, and my regular and occasional columnists including, but not only, Nick Bollettieri, Dave Boyle, Sarah Hames, Eleanor Preston and The Sports Lawyer (aka the legal eagles of sport from Thomas Eggar).

I mustn’t forget to mention Jonnie Baker, either, whose surreal musings often make me laugh out loud; Jonnie has been splitting his time between the Austrian Alps and Kathmandhu as he seeks world domination in something to do with cashmere. I hope I can persuade him very soon indeed to write me something new on Tottenham.

Eclectic, I’m sure you’ll agree, but I’ve also been delighted that so many others have offered to write on all kinds of subjects.

Hence we’ve had a Cambridge academic, Lionel Page, writing about how English clubs were damaged in Europe by the Euro exchange-rate rise.

We’ve had a look at British ice hockey from the inside, and how it might not be quite the fringe pursuit its (lack of) media coverage suggests.

We’ve had a feature about Aqua batix, the innovative, award-winning events firm that mixes synchro swimming and entertainment, and helps athletes in a fringe sport earn a few quid to maintain their Olympic dreams.

We’ve had the inside story on the biggest bonus scheme in football history from a British marketing man who’s spent years in the USA.

And among one-off contributors (so far), we’ve had Janine Self, veteran of The Sun and now a hard-toiling freelancer, giving an insight into what it was like to be Robbie Savage’s ghost; and Oscar Howie, a student with an economic theory, arguing via a long equation that Fernando Torres won’t ever repay his transfer fee.

Meanwhile the brilliant Jonathan Wilson was among contributors who nominated their favourite-ever sports books for our review page, which is just one area of the site that would be much more frequently updated if only we had the time.

There’s been a lot, lot more, as regular readers will know, but sportingintelligence is a small, independent site and we’re still growing, we hope. We’re not big on resources but we aspire to be big on enthusiasm.

We are enormously grateful to everyone who has visited the site, which is approaching half a million unique users – in total – across 210 different territories or countries since we started, to read the 815 (so far) stories / features / columns / pieces.

In absolute terms, our biggest share of readers is in the UK, followed by, in order, the US, Turkey, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Germany, India, Norway, Malaysia, Sweden, South Africa, Spain, France and Denmark.

When measured by longest stays per visit, by readers in each country, that list, in order, becomes Samoa, Guinea, Congo, Afghanistan, Swaziland, Somalia, Liechtenstein, Myanmar, Taiwan and Cuba. Yes, yes: fewer readers from each of those spending a much longer time, but fascinating (to us) nonetheless.

Our readers to date have come from 11,032 different cities and towns, ranging from Rothenburg to Kiskunfelegyhaza, Lemmer to Fish Creek, Dundee to Chagrin Falls, Croton on Hudson to Pomigliano d’Arco to Savigny-sur-Orge, and many points in between. Or so our Google Analytics stats tell us.

It’s also been gratifying to see stories or stats, researched and written specifically for this site, appearing and / or being credited elsewhere, from The Guardian to the Wall St Journal, from the Telegraph to Manchester United’s official website to the BBC and umpteen others.

Most recently, today, the blogging sensation The Swiss Ramble’s latest article refers to research data originally produced by sportingintelligence, such as details of the Premier League’s overseas deals by territory, and how the Premier League’s income from foreign rights compares to other major leagues, and alludes to trends first identified or reported here, such as English Premier League clubs’ shirt sponsorship deals overtaking their German Bundesliga rivals.

Interest continues to grow in thoughtful, well-researched work about sport and the business of sport, be it by Swiss Ramble or the doggedly detailed and always helpful Andy Green (andersred). So too, hopefully, will initiatives like Jonathan Wilson’s The Blizzard project take off and soar.

His wish for The Blizzard  – paraphased here: ‘To provide a platform for writers from across the globe to enjoy the space and freedom to write what they like about the stories that matter to them’ – embodies the same sentiments on which sportingintelligence was founded.

To everyone who has contributed and visited: thank you.

Feel free to get in touch. And happy birthday to us.

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Since starting sportingintelligence, Nick Harris has also become the chief sports news correspondent at The Mail on Sunday.


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