Is the New USA Arsenal Site Really Necessary?

USA.Arsenal.comTed Harwood is a regular guest contributor to Arsenal Station. He lives in Chicago, IL, and has been an Arsenal supporter for the better part of a decade. Here, he takes a look at the new USA Arsenal site and I follow-up with my own thoughts on it below. Ted also writes about movies, music, and other cultural artifacts on his blog, Running Downhill.

A few days ago, Arsenal launched USA.Arsenal.com, an Americanized version of the official club website.  It is interesting that it took until September 2009 for this to happen, because Arsenal have been one of the most popular clubs in the States since the rise in popularity of the Premier League in the mid 1990s.  Anyone who has been following the club for any length of time would no doubt have already visited the standard official club website long ago, so why it has taken the club this long to implement the idea is a bit of a mystery.  Nonetheless, it is here now, and so let’s take a look at what makes it different from the standard Arsenal website.

Upon entering, the site presents one with the familiar banner, only now, Arshavin, Carlos Vela (a nod to Hispanic USA Arsenal fans?), Walcott, and Cesc’s pictures display against an American flag background (the juxtaposition somehow feels a bit absurd).  Below, the usual news headlines from the standard site are listed.  The links at top are noticeably different, with “Schedule” replacing “Fixtures” (and within it, “Standings” replacing “League Table”), “The Players” replacing “Players,” and the addition of a “Fanzone USA” tab in addition to the “Ladies” tab.

Carlos VelaThere is also a tab exclusively for the Colorado Rapids, the MLS club who have a formal commercial and marketing link with Arsenal. (The Rapids show up all over the site, as it turns out).  One wonders why the club felt the need to change the terminology for common football terms like “fixture” and “table”; surely it is better to include American fans in the normal jargon of world football, rather than assuming that a fan in Omaha cannot eventually become used to using the correct terms?  Using terms such as “schedule” and “standings” serve more to strengthen the divide between American soccer and the rest of the world, rather than to make the community more inclusive and solid.

The rest of the features targeted specifically to American fans are less problematic but still clearly aimed at the newcomer rather than the hardcore.  There are features on the history of the club (“Arsenal is not just any old football club.  It is a by-word for history…”), features on Fulham (with the sort of bizarre subhead “U.S. soccer fans know about Fulham, but may not realize it”), a feature on Paul Mariner, former Gunner, now an assistant in MLS, and an article on the Baltimore Gooners (presumably this will change to highlight a different supporters’ group from time to time).  At the bottom are links to information about the competitions (“What Arsenal compete for”), wallpapers, twitter links, and a guide to the Premier League.

For all the targeting of newcomers, there are numerous useful bits on the site.  There is a link to the Arsenal USA Summer Academy prominently featured on the left-hand side of the site.  Recent BBC News football headlines are on display.  Most important, and most useful, though, is the link to the USA Arsenal Supporter’s Club.  This is something that has always been difficult for a fan to locate on the standard site, and its presence on the USA site will only make it easier for Gooners nationwide to find each other, meet up, and watch matches together.  This is a good thing for fans both old and new, and particularly for fans who do not know where to go to meet other fans and see matches.

The custom-tailoring of websites for different nations and regions is nothing new, and perhaps the only surprising thing is that it has taken Arsenal this long to implement a specific US site (although it has long had translated versions of the site for Chinese, Thai, and Korean readers).  However, in the end, the USA site is probably suitable only for newcomers to both the sport of football and the club itself.  Fans of Arsenal and English football will find most of the articles and terminology either redundant or unnecessary, and even newcomers will most likely quickly find the USA site to be superfluous.  Despite a couple of handy features, then, the USA Arsenal site feels like a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

ARSENALSTATION ADDS:

I fully agree with Ted. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a bit demeaning or condescending actually, but I can appreciate their efforts. I just NYC_Logowonder how useful the site will really be. Most American supporters will not switch to using the USA site and I would think most new fans would want as authentic an Arsenal experience as they can get and so would also use the original UK site. On the other hand, it is fantastic to see the club finally making some kind of attempt to connect with their American supporters.

The kind of supporters who would rather see the club specifically accomodate them and their American sporting sensibility are not the kind of long-term supporters the club has actually generated by doing nothing, without even knowing it, over the last 15 years. I would venture to say that if you ask any American who has supported the club since the 90s, why they began supporting the club, Dennis Bergkamp will enter the conversation shortly after. Americans appreciate sport at its highest level, which is why there are more supporters of Premier League clubs than MLS clubs in the States. The biggest weapon in Arsenal’s arsenal (like that?)

Most Arsenal supporters, and even the club, do not fully realize the breadth of support there is for the club here in the United States and it remains a great untapped resource.  This is something the other big 4 clubs have done far better than we have. Chelsea, for instance, has a US-based online club store. Arsenal, on the other hand, charge £18 for shipping any size package to the US; whether you buy furniture items or just a keychain. This does not encourage sales from overseas. And Americans are generally even more “gear-hungry” than domestic supporters because wearing our shirts, hats, jackets, or whatever is one of our primary connections to the club.

Chelsea and United have both done regular pre-season tours of the United States, as well. This is something Wenger has not been keen on in the past and I had always been able to see his point. He felt that the extra traveling was unnecessary and would prove detrimental to the team. But Chelsea seem to have dealt with it well in recent years. Giving American supporters and fans-to-be a chance to see the club in person would prove a great boon to the club here in the States. Obviously, even from an American perspective, the rumoured 39th-match was ridiculous but surely the club could come out to the States for a week or so in mid-July once every couple of years.

Overall, it is nice to see the club realizing the potential of the American market, something that was there long before Stan Kroenke and the Rapids link, but it would also be nice to see the club make strides in accomodating the already large number of faithful and loyal American supporters by looking at the lengths the other big 4 clubs have gone to connect with their American support base.

22 Responses

  1. i thought this was going to be an exercise in american bashing i am pleasently supprised to read a good peice instead.

    • American-bashing on Arsenal Station would be highly unlikely since I, and all my guest writers, are highly dedicated, long-time American Gooners. I am hoping, as a by-product of the blog, to raise the profile and image of American Arsenal supporters. Thanks for the comment, sam.

  2. Not much of any great use. It would be good if they published info on US TV schedules for Arse games plus spotlight groups in different locations where Gooners gather to watch games. Arsenal have a lot of fans over here on merit of their style of play. It is looking like they may tour here pre next season as this is obviously part of a US marketing push.

    Love to see arsenal at Giants stadium vs Red Bulls

    • Fionn, I’ve been trying to keep the most updated Arsenal US TV schedule here, you can see it using the tab above. I believe that the club have plans on highlighting different supporters’ clubs throughout the US. Giants Stadium is being knocked down so if they did come it would be to play at RBNY’s new state-of-the-art stadium in Harrison, NJ. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Thanks for that. Silly me, I did know you were a US site.
        By the way Arse v Birmingham is on Setanta at 8.30pm on Sat night according to livesoccertv .com

        I will bookmark your site
        Fionn

  3. I’m in the USA and would like to be able to purchase official Arsenal gear online from the Club without paying an additional 18 pounds for shipping. I’d love for them to set up an online option for the USA with more reasonable shipping fees. Go Arsenal!

  4. You can also check the below site for soccer listing on various US channels. This site is hosted by my buddy a Gooner… so visit to support a fellow gooner.
    http://www.soccertvlisting.com

  5. I would have to say it goes both ways. Old fans will stay on the same, and some new fans looking for something authentic will want the original site, but for a marketing standpoint, all businesses tend to tailor to their demographic, regardless of integrity. In America we’ve seen the number of Chelsea, United and Liverpool supporters grow out of control in this country, and I think, though I’m not a fan of the site, it is important to take new steps to attract a new demographic in the United States. Its just smart business whether we like it or not. On a positive not, it is nice to see that we now have access to ATVO through the American site at US Dollars.

    • The ATVO is a welcome development… If they really wanted to reach out to us, they’d do something about the overseas shipping costs. I mean, 18 pounds is just insane. That’s worse than most eBay sellers trying to make money off the shipping.

      I get the same feeling about the new USA site as I get from a lot of the MLS marketing. It’s a bid to try to lure new people to the game and the club, but we both know that the average American sports fan is not going to be won over by soccer. I feel that Arsenal, like MLS, should spend more time trying to cater the fan base it already has and show their appreciation, rather than making what seems like futile gestures in attracting new supporters.

      Most American football supporters already support a club and it seems a bit late for Arsenal to jump onto the wagon in this manner. They should’ve done stuff like this 5-10 years ago. What they should do is concentrate on working with and assisting the American supporters’ clubs because they will be the main gateway to the club, far more than a website with the American flag and American terminology.

  6. I agree, however, I see a lot of new people regardless of age get into the Premier League everytime the World Cup rolls around. They get caught up in the buzz and experience it and want to experience it more. I can count at least 10 of my American friends that are all loyal supporters of English teams now after a life-changing World Cup experience. There’s still hope. I’ve gotten my 40 year old division head at my work coming to watch the Arsenal every week, and his first experience was watching Arsenal play At Madrid for the Emirates Cup. I also think that young kids are experiencing it for a first time. Thats really who they’re pitching to.

  7. You are right that it does seem to be pitched more towards the youth. I had the same experience after the 1994 World Cup was held here. I had watched some of the 1990 World Cup but it wasn’t shown like in 1994. Watching Dennis Bergkamp in that tournament was practically a life-changing experience, exactly like you said. But the dynamic of becoming a supporter of an EPL club is far different nowadays. I used to have pay $8-10 for a two-day old copy of British newspapers to keep up with the club. With the way things are now, it’s no different for a kid today in the US to get into the EPL as it would be for them to get into the NBA. There is a similar amount of coverage on television and the net has equalized everything.

    I’m not disparaging what they’re doing, more lamenting that they haven’t done it sooner but also hoping that they would recognize their current supporters and not take them for granted while only worrying about bringing in new fans.

  8. As a UK gooner, I thought it was good for the club to do a unique site for US gooners, am interested in the slighty mixed reactions. I think it is a bad idea to patronise US Gooners by using domestic sporting terms though. I think you can cope with tables and fixtures etc. However, this is part of Ivan Gazidis’s brand building strategy, he wants your dollars! Am dead set against any prem game being played outside of the UK, but if Arsene wants to ditch the Austrian pre-season and tout the team about a bit, fine by me. As long as the very first pre-season game is still held at Underhill! We shouldn’t bin all our traditions after all.

    • You are absolutely right, tg. Most American Gooners would not be comfortable with a 39th match either, even if we would stand to benefit by being able to see the club in a competitive match. I think you would also find that the club’s traditions are a big part of what draws American supporters to the club. And we would not want to see any of those things changed, just like any UK-based supporter… for instance, the Underhill friendly. A pre-season trip to the US would be fantastic especially for the many Gooners here who can’t afford to pay a few thousand dollars to go to London for a weekend to see a match (though there are MANY that do!). It would be a great gesture to those of us who have supported the club for many years without ever getting a chance to see them live and it would also do far more to draw in new supporters to the club than any website. Mind you, it wouldn’t have to be an every-year type of thing like Chelsea and United are doing but even once every couple of years would be really appreciated by us American Gooners. Thanks for reading and commenting, tg!!

  9. What abut those living in Canada – there are plenty of Arsenal ex pats there!!!!

    • That is true, but here in NYC not many of us are expats, though there are some, especially with the older members. I do believe that Canadian Gooner clubs are included in Arsenal America. There was a small group in Toronto…

  10. yes! the new usa site is totally necessary, there are alot of gooners here, wen barcelona played chivas during pre-season, i was surprised to see a whole bunch of gooners cheering yea u know who? thierry henry,
    i’m bummed tho cos i was hopin a arsenal shop online came wit it, tired of waiting for some1 who is coming from england to get me my latest kit!
    go gooners…

    • EZE, you can still order from the official UK shop but you have to pay about 30 dollars for shipping no matter what you buy. I got a chance to see Thierry and Hleb when Barcelona played RBNY last year and that was fantastic. I know a bunch of places here in the US that sell official Arsenal kits.. if you’d like to know send me an email (arsenalstation-at-hotmail.co.uk) and I’ll give you the info.

  11. Super-Duper site! haha. I am loving it!! Will come back again – reading your rss feeds also, thanks.

  12. happy

  13. happy winning team

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  15. Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am impressed! Very useful info specially the last section 🙂 I take care of such information a lot. I used to be seeking this particular info for a very lengthy time. Thanks and good luck.

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