JAFA: The new wave in fan engagement

By James Bayliss and Lara Barratt

Fans can’t help but deliver their footballing opinion, whether it’s asked of them or not. That’s ok, it’s important to have debate and varied opinions (within reason). However, the main problem is that the platforms used to deliver an analysis or take from a match weren’t designed for the game. Twitter for example, or Facebook, Snapchat, the list goes on, all have one thing in common, and it’s that they weren’t designed with football in mind.

And why should they be? They’ve done a wonderful job (at times) fuelling conversation, spreading news and raising awareness of issues. But has the time come for a platform that focuses on the world of football to be introduced? Dan Bedi certainly thinks so.

His ideas, combined with those of University peers, created the new app that’s set to take the online footballing world by storm: JAFA, an acronym for Just A Fan’s Analysis.

The app pools together all the footballing news and stories you could want around your club, and delivers it in one very easy to use platform, while offering you the opportunity to analyses the story yourself  in as many or as few words as you’d like.

You can comment and post whenever you like, but you must include a headline for your post, and include tags as well. Comments and posts can then receive upward votes or downward votes depending on how the public react to your contribution.

The app is there and ready to go! But how did it come this far from just a University project? Dan enlightened us a little more.

“So, we, myself and a few others, who are still involved with JAFA today, undertook this student project and as these things do, they grow legs and as we got to the end of the year, we were able to raise an investment. Investors were able to put money in, who said, ‘well we like you guys as a team, we like your idea, let’s take this on.

“From the very start, I had an idea, it was slightly different to JAFA as it had many similarities, but we shaped and honed it over the course of the university year and then we finished with the MBA and kicked it on from there.”

The recognition for a community platform where football fans are placed at the heart of the business, allowing them to engage on a level where their opinions are heard and actively discussed, was one of the main reasons behind JAFA’s creation. 

“We saw that fan engagement was changing, there were always football fans who like to talk and comment all the time, that’s not the change, that’s been around for years whether it’s been in the pub or the ages of social media. 

“The rise of new channels, new platforms, fans always want to talk and engage about football and actually the where instead of the why and the way was changing because of the channels, the socials, the digitals, that was all changing and we saw that.”

The data behind the football Twitter trends was a real eye-opener, fans were changing the way they engaged and how they used Twitter as a social platform, these observations helped identify the ideal target community and add value to their business idea.

“The way fans were actually using Twitter was changing and they were not engaging with targeted comments; not engaging around Twitter the way they used to and that was being born out through the data and that was really interesting to us.

“If you could build a community and scale it, you could create an opportunity, so the merging of all that together was for us to ask why JAFA and we thought there was an opportunity here for a stand-alone purpose built fan first business and hence why we call it JAFA – Just A Fan’s Analysis, we thought the fans deserve just as much right as the pundits to have that voice and to be heard and so that was why we created JAFA.”

This opportunity presented plenty of learning experiences, with social channels such as ArsenalFanTV emerging strongly from an environment shaped by fan opinions and perspective. From this, there has been a rise in fan-based content with media giants like the BBC and Sky tagging onto this growing trend and trying to expand their viewership. 

Fan’s are the backbone of their clubs; therefore, their opinions should matter the most. Social channels have given fans the chance to spark discussions over club issues and influence their decisions so that fans opinions are taken into consideration.

“There was an opportunity for clubs to have their own fan channel, but they didn’t and now fans are doing it. I think that is nice in a way because fans themselves are opinionated on many things and the clubs cannot engage with some of the discussions that fans want to have.”

If all fans were given the chance to speak their opinion, it would possibly benefit football on a positive level.

“The best thing for the whole ecosystem is for fans to be able to say their place in an unofficial ArsenalFanTV style, separate from the party channel and I do believe that places like ourselves, will grow because fans want to talk about that type of stuff and that’s where, at the moment, they are having their opinions lost or are unable to talk about it.”

Although social media is seen as a modern-day phenomenon, it does come with its baggage. The dark side of social media is visible when someone has a controversial opinion that is viewed negatively. This makes it difficult for fans to voice their opinion in fear that it could be viewed differently and received in a negative manner. Therefore, to ensure JAFA is a safe environment for fans to discuss their opinions, measures will be taken and shall be handled accordingly to enforce a community based friendly atmosphere. 

“Whilst that takes it so far for us, for the community which I think there are a strong number of football fans who want to have a more meaningful and interactive place to go to, which is actually something a bit different and they are vested in that and seeing that community succeed.

“I believe this building product which is fan first is the reason why we wanted to do the recent crowd fund as well so actually giving fans the opportunity to come on my journey and be a fan first owned business and I think that’s been a core piece of business for us and we will continue to be so.”

So, with JAFA, you can be rest assured that your opinions will be handled in a safe sporting environment, you will be heard, you will be able to interact with other fanatics, find content you want to read, have the content tailored to the news and people you want to see, and finally, have your opinion delivered amongst others at the heart of football.

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