The end of the football season is nearly upon us but before we hear the last squeaks of the bums the country over, we wanted to bring you just one more app for lovers of the beautiful game. It’s an iPhone-only affair at the moment but it should be on Android before the Euros began and all are free to try the web version whenever they choose.
Bantr is a social network and interactive sports service that uses Facebook as the backbone for your friends and your log in credentials. Allowing Bantr access is all you need to do to register and, after that, you have two simple questions to answer before you’re all set up - what team do you support, and do you have faith in your manager? After that, the app is your oyster.
You can choose to beef up your profile with your favourite XI, your formation of choice and, ultimately, whether or not your players are fit to wear the shirt, and all that information is then collated among fans of your club to see how popular players are and what those who watch from the stands think should be the way it works on the pitch.
The big question, of course, is whether football fans actually know anything at all. Are their opinions really worth all that much or is that the reason why Redknapp, Fergusson, Mancini and co. are paid the big bucks?
“I don’t like the way that football is going,” says the man behind the app, Peter McCormack. “I don’t like the way that they get away with things and I wanted to do something about that. I want to let the fans back into football.”
Citing the Venkys at Blackburn and the way that fans of the club have been saddled with both a structure and a manager that’s seen them suffer the pain of relegation, McCormack is looking to add a board approval index to the system and hopes to harness a more powerful, unified voice to fan opinion.
“It’s no different from the Chelsea fans chanting, ‘There’s only one Jose Mourinho’ but we’re taking out the mob mentality and giving it structure.”
“It’s a way of crowd sourcing opinion and, for us, the ultimate is for pundits to use it. Alan Green quoting our approval ratings on his commentary is what we’re after.”
McCormack is at the same time realistic about the effect that even an organised fan voice might have. It’s not going to cause managers to choose a different XI but you can bet that club owners and board members will take a successful version of Bantr far more seriously than the cat-calls on Twitter and the slanging of the web forums.
Beyond its higher purpose though, there’s still plenty about Bantr to enjoy. A football service of this nature would be nothing without a live game experience and that’s exactly what you get. Users can check into a game and add minute-by-minute style comments on the action to sit alongside updates coming in from live Opta information. Did Bale dive? Should Terry have got a red? You can pose just those questions in an embedded, on-the-spot poll at any time during the action.
After the final whistle, you also get the chance to rate the players with a simple thumbs up or down, so no need to agonise over whether they quite bridged the gap between a 6 and a 7. When there’s no ball in play, you’re welcome to predict the outcome of future fixtures, check out a news stream of activity on the whole network or just drill down to the talk on your club.
The price you pay for all the fun is that, being based on Facebook, it does mean Bantr has access to the anonymous version of your information - your likes, dislikes, age, rank, serial number and all that jazz - but that’s modern social networking for you, and the bottom line is that it’s much better to give it up for something you’ll enjoy rather than a one off Facebook quiz.
There’s still plenty of distance for Bantr to travel. It’s brand new and consequently a touch buggy but we like where it’s going. Looking to connect with some cultured fan opinion? You may just have found it.