Archive for November 1st, 2010

Online Activity in the Wake of the Melbourne Storm Controversy Revisited (incomplete)

Posted by Laura on Monday, 1 November, 2010

This isn’t actually fully revisited. I started writing this about a week ago and then have had extremely limited internet access. Given that, I thought I would post what I have so far and finish the rest later.

Online Activity in the Wake of the  Melbourne Storm Controversy Revisited (incomplete)

On April 22, 2010, the news of salary cap violations on the part of the Melbourne Storm broke online in such publications as the Fox Sports, on television including ABC news and on multiple social networks including Facebook and Twitter. By April 23, the news was available in various print publications including The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. During the news coverage, NRL fans learned that the team had been fined $1.8 million, stripped of two premiereships and were not eligible to earn points towards 2010’s premiership. (“Melbourne storm stripped,” 2010) The team was being punished for salary cap violations over the past five years, where the total cap violation in that period was $1.7 million with $400,000 of that total cap violation occurring in 2009. (“Melbourne storm stripped,” 2010)

The consensus at the time in the media was that this would hurt the team in terms of maintaining a fan base. In the three-week period after the news broke, this did not appear to be the case: The team maintained or grew its online fan community. In addition, there was more fan interactions in the Melbourne Storm fan community than there had been prior to the controversy. This defied conventional wisdom. The numbers deserve a followup to determine if the Melbourne Storm managed to capture short-term interest and translate it into long-term, season long, interest in the club.

This article will revisit numbers from May to determine how successful the club was. Specifically, interest patterns as expressed on networks like 43things, bebo, Facebook, LiveJournal and its clones, Twitter, Wikia, Wikiedia, Yahoo!Groups and YouTube. The article will prove that as the season progressed, interest in the Melbourne Storm declined relative to other teams in the National Rugby League.


In the May analysis, a goal setting site called 43things was looked at. The site has a small group of Australians on it who have set professional sport related goals.

On April 1, 2010, the site was searched for any goals that connected to the Melbourne Storm. Only one goal related to the Melbourne Storm was found. It is “Go to a Melbourne Storm Game.” (1) Two people, erynne and mmcpharlane, had listed this as a goal they were working towards completing. When checked again on May 10 and October 24, no one had added any additional goals related to the Melbourne Storm. The two individuals who had listed “Go to a Melbourne Storm Game” remained the same.

Mailing lists

During much of the 1990s, mailing lists were one of the most popular tools for fans to use in order to communicate with each other. The creation of mailing lists became much easier when sites like egroups, coollists, topica, Yahoo!Groups and Google groups were created. In some corners of Australian sport fandom, mailing lists have played an important role in helping fans support their interest in clubs.

At one point, there was a semi-active community for the Melbourne Storm community on Yahoo!Groups. (2) When Melbourne Storm Yahoo!Groups were looked at in May, the controversy had no effect on the groups: No new content was posted on these lists. Only one (3) had new content posted between May and October; this new content was a generic newsletter that is sent out to several other NRL related lists and was not published specifically for this list. (4) There is no long tail effect of the club’s fan community on Yahoo!Groups as the community has long since moved on and the controversy didn’t activate a community that has largely been inactive since 2001.


YouTube is the largest video site online. It is also the second biggest search engine online. (Hill, 2008) It is a popular site for sport fans; several teams around the world for different sports capitalize on this by having their own official accounts including the Chicago Red Stars (5), Real Madrid (6), and Perth Glory (7). Beyond the presence of official team accounts, fans upload many videos. Fan videos can be music videos, news clips, and video blogs. The frequency of uploads is one way to determine interest in a club.

When the original analysis was completed in May, it did not include YouTube data. Data was only gathered in June and October, several months after the controversy went down. In addition, the total upload data gathered only included a few teams: Brisbane Broncos, Canberra Raiders, Gold Coast Titans, Melbourne Storm, Parramatta Eels, and Wests Tigers. Despite the lack of pre-controversy data, interesting post controversy numbers were discovered.

Table 1
YouTube Video Search Results by Date and Keyword
Team Keyword 16-Jun-10 21-Jun-10 24-Oct-10 Difference: 16-Jun to 24-Oct Difference: 21-Jun to 24-Oct
Brisbane Broncos “Brisbane Broncos” 509


525 16 5
Melbourne Storm “Melbourne Storm” 910 925 889 -21 -36

Parramatta Eels

“Parramatta Eels” 479 485 527 48 42
Parramatta Eels “Timana Tahu” 36 36


-5 -5
Wests Tigers “Wests Tigers” 390 404 464 74 60
Canberra Raiders

“Canberra Raiders”

274 403 129
Gold Coast Titans “Gold Coast Titans” 260 302 42
Brisbane Broncos “Darren Lockyer” 198 187 187 -11

When compared to all other teams, the Melbourne Storm were the only team where the number of videos mentioning them decreased. The two players looked at both faced losses in the total number of videos that mentioned them. Like the Storm, both of these players were involved in a major controversy during the season.

There are likely three reasons that could be attributed to the decline in videos. The first is that YouTube removed the videos because of copyright issues. This is plausible and if it is the case, it may not be the fault of the Storm as many of the copyright disputes on YouTube involve the background music. Given the lack of discussion in the NRL community about YouTube crackdowns in terms of NRL content or music, this reason just seems unlikely. The second reason is the creators may have deleted their content and their videos. This feels more plausible. Many people delete their online content when they are job hunting, because they are embarrassed by it or because of privacy concerns. The third reason is that the uploader no longer likes the team: They do not want to be associated with them or embarrassed by their previous support of them. This reason seems the most plausible. In the context of the Melbourne Storm, it fits given the patterns with the individual rugby league players who endured major controversies. In actuality, the reduction in videos is probably a combination of the second and third reasons. If true, it suggests that controversies lead to a reduction in user-uploaded content and the deletion of existing material: The YouTube audience for the team contracts.


Hill, J. (2008, October 16). YouTube surpasses Yahoo as world’s #2 search engine. TG Daily. Retrieved October 24, 2010, from

Melbourne storm stripped of two premierships for salary cap breach. (2010, April 22). Fox Sports, Retrieved from,8659,27022196-5018866,00.html


1. The page for the goal can be found at .
2.Yahoo!Groups is the most popular mailing list host.  Archives are also available for these lists.
The list was .
3.While these e-mails were generic to the National Rugby League and might be considered spam if they were posted on a list with a more active administrator, a few did mention the Melbourne Storm.  A few even referenced the controversy.  Because of the nature of the posts, these few posts were not counted.
4.The Chicago Red Stars official YouTube can be found at .
5.Real Madrid’s official YouTube account can be found at .
6.Perth Glory’s official YouTube account can be found at .

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Reading notes about rugby, Aussie rules and general Aussie sport books

Posted by Laura on Monday, 1 November, 2010

Between October 21 and November 1, 2010, I’ve been busy reading books about Australian and New Zealand sport. Some of this has been for entertainment. Some of this has been with the general broad goal of better understanding Australian and New Zealand sporting cultures. Some of it has also been to try to learn more about the demographic and geographic characteristics of these particular sporting cultures. I’ve spent time in public and universities, in chain bookstores, in independent bookstores and in used bookshops. Beyond what you see here, I’ve developed a rather lengthy list of books that I want the University of Canberra’s library to purchase in order to build up its sport cultures and sport history sections. (The University of Victoria Footscray Park campus library sport section blew me away. I want that at the University of Canberra.) In some cases, I’ve taken pictures of the covers and relevant pages while reading as I didn’t always have paper on hand. Notes from these pages may eventually be written up. That said, my notes to date with a focus on understanding fans.

League of Legends, 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia. Chapter: Rugby League: A Work in Progess by David Middleton. pg. 31.

In the early 1980s, the NRL expanded outside of its traditional base in New South Wales. Fears at the time were that if the National Rugby League failed to expand that the AFL would take over the country and kill their game.

League of Legends, 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia. Chapter: Grass Roots: On Being a Rugby League Fan by Debbie Spilane.
“Pay television and the internet are two of the other major changes in attracting fans.”

“But, for the majority, being a fan is all about a bond with a team and a fellow fans, the memories it holds and the hopes it embodies for the future. It’s about emotion and shared experience and loyalty.”

Sporting Island, A history of Sport and Recreation in Tasmania by David Young.
Rugby league returned to Tasmania in 1990. In 1998, the Melbourne Storm played the Adelaide Rams at the North Hobart Oval. They hoped to get 5,000 fans at the game but only 2,395 showed. This wasn’t a good sign for Rugby League on the island.

A National Game, The History of Australian Rules Football by Rob Hess, Matthew Nicholson, Bob Stewart and Gregory De Moore.

pg. 51: As the game spread during the 1860s, “teams became identified strongly with local communities.”

pg. 66-67: Female fans were depicted as being fans of the team by the 1870s. They appeared in artwork from the era. The percentage of female fans for Australian rules has always been higher than other football codes. In terms of attendance, during the 1870s, they are said to have made up 1/3 to 1/2 of all spectators. Female football fans turned out at all levels of plays. The people who managed the fields and the newspapers were keen to provide and promote the nicer seating accommodations for female fans. Early female fans were not necessarily there to look at the attractive male form as early uniforms were not as form fitting. Only as the 1870s unfolded did the uniforms become tighter and similar to that of rugby.

pg. 96: Local newspapers were important in terms of helping share club news, create fan identity and develop a fan base. An example of this was the Independent, which promoted the Footscray Football Club.

pg. 96-97: Supporters “adopted a variety of emblems, totems and flags in their search for a visible form of community identity in an increasingly competitive suburban competition.” Club colors were worn on scarves, clothing, in rosettes, silk ribbons and other paraphernalia sold by local shopkeepers. Football clubs helped legitimize local communities, were vital to the community’s social structures and supported local businesses. “In essence, the more formal organization of the VFA created the conditions by which casual onlookers to the game evolved into loyal barrackers with an emotional investment in the results of matches. With the creation of this specific audience in the 1870s and 1880s came a consumerist mentality that helped to boost commercial dimensions of the code.

pg. 158: “It should be understood that the relationship between women and football is multifaceted rather than one-dimensional. The obvious presence of a large number of female spectators is clearly distinctive to the code, and the press description of female barrackers stoically sitting in the rain yelling abuse at the umpire, or decorating their prams in club colours, are enduring reflections of the passionate commitment that women displayed for Australian Rules football.”

pg. 164: Contains a map of the Barassi-line.

pg. 165: During the 1920s, Melbourne was the spiritual home for Australian rules football because the game had been invented in Melbourne. During the 1920s, Melbourne supported two leagues: The VFA and the VFL.

pg. 167-168: Adelaide and South Australia were also heavily involved with Australian rules during the 1920s. Population of 295,000 and they could get 20,000 to big matches, 8,000 on average,

pg. 169: Western Australia was also into Australian rules. The same was true for Tasmania.

pg. 170: Australian rules was less popular in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT though these states all had competitions.

pg. 171: The Northern Territories during the 1920s and 1930s were into Australian rules, especially amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander populations.

pg. 215: Pascoe is cited along with his rational for why Rugby took off where it did versus Australian rules and where it did. (Structure and team oriented coming out of a convict pass for rugby. Less structured and more individualist for a more a society created in the freewheeling period of the late 19th century.

pg. 244: North Melbourne tried to move to Coburg in the 1960s but locals felt disloyal to their VFA team and did not like having to pay for the team to be there.

pg. 246: “Carlton was a magnet for immigrants in the 1950s because of its low-cost rentals, high-density housing and proximity to the city.” Lots of Italian immigrants settled there. Some played soccer but a few tried Australian rules and were good at it. Because of the multi-cultural composition of the team, the nature of the fanbase changed while maintaining its middle class aspirations. In Western Australia, other immigrant groups and Aboriginals began playing for and supporting local Perth area club sides.

pg. 248: The galas put on by the ANFC weren’t that successful as many Australians were more interested in their local club sides than they were in state teams.

The Winter Game, Rediscovering the Passion of Rugby by Todd R. Nicholls.
pg. 47: Super 12 brings in non-hardcore fans of rugby more into the game. As of 2005, no study has been done to examine the economic impact of the Dunedin Super 12 team on the local economy. A study was done on the economic impact of test rugby.

pg. 97: In New Zealand, you’ve got crowds of 20,000 people going to a Super 12 game. Fans pay a lot of money to attend. Amateur rugby is a problem because fewer players continue playing in their 20s. This is similar to the problem of soccer in New Zealand. If players do not go on, it can be a problem for the game.

pg. 129: “It’s as if a notion of the nation is that much more difficult for a rugby fan to grasp. The All Blacks are, well, New Zealand’s team but the ‘us’ is bigger than when the Crusaders are playing and perhaps harder to identify with.”

pg. 130: “I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness as I contemplate this, a real sense of loss that the average fan has to some degree been left behind in the move to professional rugby.”

pg. 141: Rugby union in Australia is a game more for Australia’s elite. This can be seen in how fans dress to attend matches. It can culturally also be seen in the demographics of fans in Australia: Private school educated, using the game to reaffirm business connections, richer and belonging to a more exclusive class.

pg. 158: Rugby is something fitted around school, work and family for most New Zealand rugby fans. For club rugby and the NPC, the author thinks that the smaller provinces are better in that they get behind their teams more in the local community, in the newspaper and on the street. He asserts that winning the NPC means more the community than it does in bigger communities.

pg. 277: Being an All Black meant behaving a certain way, doing certain things, treating fans a certain way. Professionalism has tested these traditions and expectations for what it means to be an All Black.

pg. 288: Rugby fans vote for the “RBS Player of the Championship” in the Six Nations competition.

pg. 297-298: The Barmy Army has a project manager. His job is to create events for fans to attend while the Lions do tours and compete in Tests. Lions fans are madly passionate, at the author and the project manager assert. In the tour of New Zealand, they out number the Kiwi fans and out sang them. The local economy makes a lot of money off these visiting fans, as will the organizers with their high ticket prices and expensive kit. Still, some of the officially organized events had low attendance and appeared to the author less celebrating a love of rugby and more about trying to make as much cash as possible.

pg. 320: The vast majority of the members of the Barmy Army are Lions fans traveling all around New Zealand anyway or are older fans on expensive tour packages. A lot of others are Kiwis who support the Lions.

pg. 322: Losing doesn’t matter much to the Lions fans attending the New Zealand tour. It is all about having a good time and supporting their team.

pg. 347: The increase in the number of Super 12/14 games and TriNations games did not necessarily increase the demand for rugby. The start of the Super 14 competition had smaller attendance in New Zealand than in previous years. The expanded schedule also meant increased competition with other sport schedules in all three countries.

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