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BJA and OnSport websites - Caveat Emptor. 


In this post I want to provide a little of my thoughts on the British Judo Association's (BJA) partnership with OnSport.com offering Judo clubs "free" websites. before I start, let me state clearly that I am not against the project, I think it has value and could be good for some clubs. However, as per the original title of this post, these is no such thing as a free lunch and I feel it is important that some of this is discussed in the open before people commit to a OnSport website.

What is being offered?
Basically, the OnSport/BJA deal is that clubs can get free websites. You get a subdomain on the OnSport.com which contains your website. That website is a template designed by OnSPort and the BJA. There is a Judogi background, Judo pictures rotating in the banner and links to the BJA and the BJA online Shop.
You can login to the site and make changes online, adding pictures, news stories, information about your club sessions etc etc.
It is worth noting that the system was not designed for Judo, rather it is a generic system for all sports and you can tell pretty quickly looking at the default setup that it was team sports, not Judo.

What does it cost?
In terms of cash, the websites are free. However as per the opening paragraph you don't get anything for free in the real world. To understand a little of what using a OnSport/BJA website costs you need to look at the parties involved and of course the terms and conditions of use.

BJA: The BJA have a link to their website and to their shop, that is the obvious benefit that the BJA get form this deal. I am not in a position to know what the legal deal is between the BJA and OnSport so I can't say how this works. Personally, I suspect that the BJA see this as an opportunity to get free sites for member clubs; pure and simple. The links to the website and shop are a bonus, but not that big a deal I think.

OnSport: OnSport are a business, they are in fact Maxinutrition AKA MaxiMuscle. This is good to know as it gives you some perspective on where they are coming from.
You need to browse their terms and conditions before you sign up to their service and doing so will enlighten you to some of the ideas this business has on how OnSport will generate revenue for Maxinutrition.

Here are a few of the key points I spotted that I think are important for you as a BJA club to consider:

3.5: By signing up, you agree to receive marketing material from Maxinutrition, though you can "opt out".
So from this you can assume that part of the reasoning about running OnSport is that Maxinutrition are using it as a tool to get direct contact with sports clubs in the UK. Which makes sense if your business is that of selling supplements.

4.3, 4.4: Maxinutrition owns anything you put on the website and has permission to use it as they wish. So your photos, text, etc etc etc are all Maxinutrition's property. You don't own it the moment it goes on the site. So, that award winning photo is now Maxinutrition's and they can put in in a poster, on a product, whatever and you have already given them ownership/permission.

8.1: Advertising, Maxinutrition have your permission to put adverts on your OnSPort website. This is another key revenue idea, so you can see the model, use BJA clubs to generate traffic which they can then "monetize" by putting adverts on the site (your club website).

9.1: Links, Maxinutrition (or third parties) can provide links to other sites on your club website. So examples already there are the BJA website and Store, but they could be to anything. So maybe to the Maximuscle webiste or perhaps to all sorts of other websites willing to pay Maxinutrition to put a link on your website.

11.1: Maxinutrition can cancel your account/website without notice. So your website could disappear. They can also edit or delete any content on your site. I read this as being part of them covering themselves from you as a user posting bad content. But you need to consider that your content is in the hands of a supplement company. I would not expect that post about how bad supplements are and how you should just eat healthy balanced diets to be popular and would I suspect be a candidate for "amending" or Deletion.

12: Prohibited uses. Ok this section has lots of protecting themselves text, so should you do anything illegal, Maxinutrition is protected.

12.4: Interestingly you are not permitted to use the site for "sports related services", which seems womanly be big stuff (like selling naming rights to a stadium) but technically I think includes most of us. For example you are not permitted to use the site for "representation of athletes" so no trying to get sponsorship for your athletes via you club website.
I think this means that Maxinutrition have a side of their business that does that sort of thing and it is just template bit of legalese to protect their business interests. But remember breach this term (in Maxinutrition's eyes) and your club website can be deleted without notice.



Discussion:
Maxinutrition are a business, they have a legal obligation to act in the interests of their shareholders and that means make money. OnSport.com is I think a good service for simple generic websites for clubs. However, it is important to be aware that Maxinutrition need to make money from the onSport website at some stage. This I think is most likely to be in the form of advertising and links on the website pages (your pages) but also potentially interactive features.

Maxinutrition have also made the landgrab for your content. This is not unusual, most social network sites do this. But Judo clubs perhaps are not familiar with this. Anything you add to the website belongs to OnSport/Maxinutrition and they can use it as they like. You should also be aware that you are responsible for any copyright infringement on your site not Maxinutrition, so if they say used an image or video from your site (which they can do) and then got sued, they would I suspect just say that it was your fault… so the law suit lands on your lap. Scary, unlikely but scary.

Other implications you need to think about is that your club is now a mere sub domain on a large corporate website. You need to think about how search engines and visitors will react to this.
From a search engine perspective it is hard to tell how people like Google will react. In general owning your own domain is better than having a subdomain like what is offered. In other words www.myclubinmytown.co.uk is better than myclubinmytown.onsport.com. Also there is a fair amount of content duplication going on in the templates, so search engines are likely to not like that.

Also, when/if visitors find your site, does it represent your club well? Does it give an accurate portrayal of your club or is it a generic sports website with a Judo club shoehorned in? For example, I think most (if not all) Judo sites on OnSport have a tab for "Squads"; which is not something most Judo clubs in the BJA have. It is something that is in the system from it's original design, but you have it on your Judo site.
Equally by default no dojo address or session times. You can add them but again the sites are not immediately relevant to the Judo use.

Design, the template design on the site is nice, almost valid xHTML (techie talk there) but they all look the same, even after customization. So your site will look very similar to every other Judo website on the system.
The personality and uniqueness of your club is lost. Now I prefer the OnSPort layout to many Judo websites out there. Judo websites are normally old style and ugly. But at least they normally describe a little of what the club is like.

People see a professional, generic looking website like the OnSport club websites and expect… a professional generic Judo club. Are you a professional generic Judo club? Or are you a small village club that is run by unpaid volunteers that teaches little kids once a week? Or perhaps you are a tough contest club that is ready to rock and roll, in either case you are not a generic club so do you want a generic website?

Cost… So it's free. That is… no I must correct myself… that WAS a big selling point in the past. Getting a website may still seem hard and expensive, but now days getting a free website is very easy to do. Try Wordpress.com or Google's Blogger or Google Sites as examples.

Even a "paid for" website is not expensive, I do it for a living by the way. A club website will start at about 60 quid a year for the domain and hosting. A realistic budget to get a simple website together would be a few hundred pounds by the time you include some simple design work. A grand or two if you want a great site.

Summary:
So there you have it, some points to consider before you sign up with the BJA/OnSport website scheme. It is in my opinion a good thing to do if you really really don't want your own website.
You do need to consider the reasons why a supplements company wants to give you a free website, the answer is "to make money" by the way. They way they will make money from you is not clear but there are some clues in the terms and conditions of the OnSport site.

Personally, I doubt I'll be putting my club, my content or my time into OnSport. Mainly as I want to own my content and because I trust a hosting company with my content more than a supplements company looking to try an experiment with web hosting /social networking.

I do not think that the OnSport offering really gives us very much and Maxinutrition actually get quite a lot from you and your club.

My advise is that you explore what they are offering and what other services like a web hosting company, wordpress or google can offer you and make your own decision.

If you have any questions, you can contact me and I'll answer any questions I can.

Lance.

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