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There are an overwhelming number of apps for following live sport, reading match reports and catching up on news as the new 2013 football season gets going. Each year it seems like more apps are churned out, updated and in some cases spoiled with poorly executed updates.
Frustrated at the dizzying choice and the fact that my previous favourite app for following Premiership football has gone to the dogs, I took it upon myself to download the lot and try to decipher which are worth your time. Because this information is freely available from news sources across the web, my only criteria is that the apps must be free.
Oh, and they have to be decent too. Here are my top picks, as of this early stage in the season.
For those of you on the UK app store, the ESPN UK app is a treat. I’m not quite sure what ESPN are playing at with their huge choice of apps, seemingly split by locale, but if anyone from their digital division is listening then they should make this the ESPN app and make it available to the rest of the world too (with suitably international content, of course).
As the name suggests, it’s ESPN coverage with a UK twist focusing on football, rugby and cricket as well as Formula 1, tennis, golf, boxing and UFC. Football coverage includes both the English and Scottish premiership, the English Championship and a few other select top leagues from around Europe. You can also follow competitions like the UEFA league, all of which can be saved as favourites for quick access.
You can bookmark clubs and teams as well as whole leagues and sports, which appear in a left-hand side menu which you swipe to reveal. On the right is the full list of ESPN UK content, and each section of the app is rather beautifully laid out with plenty of tasteful white space, crisp fonts and fast access to tables, fixtures and filters for customising your content. It’s like Flipboard for sport, highly responsive and refreshingly different to their somewhat cluttered ScoreCenter app.
The app supports push notifications for a range of events including match starts, half and full-time scores as well as goals, subs and after-match statistics. You can even choose multiple favourite teams to follow, and enable notifications for each. A great app, which is unfortunately presently limited to the UK app store, and try as I might I just can’t find US, Australian or Brazillian (ESPN’s main territories) equivalents anywhere.
TeamStream is less of a match coverage tool and instead falls under the category of sports news. It’s predominantly focused on US sports, but also covers the Premier League and Championship, as well as German, Italian, Spanish and US (MLS) leagues. It’s possible to subscribe to as many teams as you like, with the aim of being kept up to date using push notifications as developments occur.
This gives the app a very newsy-feel, though it’s arguably one of the best apps for tracking news as it happens (and that’s bound to appeal to some of the more die-hard fans among you). The app takes some setting up, though registration is optional and you can even turn off the sponsored columns and generic “Top Stories” feed and focus entirely on your own little world of sport if you do so desire (I’d recommend it).
There are a wide range of sports covered by the app including the usual tennis, rugby and cricket. The range extends to motorsports like NASCAR and Formula 1, an “Action Sports” category to follow as well as athletics and Olympics news when it’s relevant. This is a great app for fans of sport in general, and makes a fine addition to a real-time tracking app.
The BBC Sport app isn’t particularly nice to use, nor does it support any push notifications for match events, news or game alerts. However, the sheer number of teams to choose from here is what earns it a place on this list, because if you’re following a team that’s not in the Premiership, Championship or one of Europe’s other top leagues, you’ll be in trouble with many of the App Store’s offerings. Not so here! Kidderminster Harriers fan? Worry not, because even the Conference is covered, as are all Scottish leagues and the home nations each have their own international team portals too.
Unfortunately the app suffers from some a rather terrible UI, so you will need to pin your favourite teams to the main menu in order to make it usable. To achieve this choose your sport, tap the little downwards arrow, choose All Teams then find your team by league and then tap the Add To Quick Links button. Each team page acts like a feed, with fixtures and a table so it’s functional but not exactly pleasant to use.
Being the BBC, there are a huge range of sports covered under the Other Sports entry. These include disabled sport, fencing, ice hockey and MotoGP to name but a few. The app could do with a complete rethink and iPad update, though it’s still the go-to choice for following teams not covered by the other apps.
A rather gaudy yet functional app from Sky Sports, Football Centre takes on the same format as their match day coverage complete with rolling news ticker and a dashing shade of blue that would make Real Player blush. This is another app that supports some of the Football League’s lower divisions, except this time round you can nominate one team for which you will receive push notifications. Why one team? I don’t really know, and what’s more you have to register an account to get notifications at all.
Still, it’s free to register, entirely football focused and arguably built entirely for match day. After choosing your favourite team the Home screen becomes a sort of portal, providing fixtures and scores at a glance, as well as your team’s position in the league and below that editor’s picks and news in general.
Of note is the fact that it took Sky 11 months to update their app to support the new iPhone 5 resolution, which points to a rather slow update cycle. That’s not a huge problem at the moment, because the app works and does its job just fine providing plenty of photos, news, commentary and statistics about upcoming, past and currently live games.
The Excel spreadsheet of the football app world, LiveScore is the place to go for straight-up football results. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Llanidloes Town FC, a casual follower of the Swedish Allsvenskan league or are simply wondering how Baghdad FC got on last week, this app will tell you. I’ve not found a league it doesn’t cover, and that’s probably because the company behind the app specialise in one thing – scores.
There’s no league standings, no news and a positively confusing interface of blue-on-orange buttons for navigation, but that doesn’t spoil it for me. The app can also be used to find out a similarly intimidating number of scores for hockey, basketball, tennis and cricket too so its scope goes way beyond football.
There’s no push notifications, no league standings, nothing in the way of transfer rumours or anything of the sort, but if you have a need for all of the scores then look no further. One thing I’d love to see would be the ability to pin certain leagues to a favourites list, though the ability to search is very handy indeed.
If there’s one thing the tabloids dedicate too much time to it’s sports coverage, and Trinity Mirror are no different. The upside is that all that coverage can be shoe-horned into digital formats and injected into the eyeballs of sports fans as and when they want it, which is what makes this app so great. If you’re not just fond of following football but also feel a need to read, talk and live it on a daily basis, Mirror Football is for you.
After choosing your favourite team from the English leagues only (sorry everyone else), Mirror Football puts all the important news, scores, fixtures and league standings on the My Club tab. There are separate tabs for general news and transfer information, each of which can be sorted by club. There’s also a tab dedicated to opinion where pundits share their thoughts and encourage debate.
And debate you can! The commenting side of things is very well-integrated, allowing you to argue till your thumbs bleed and comment on every news and opinion piece posted. All this plus the fantastic Match Centre tab which provides live scores, results, table standings and fixtures at a glance. There’s no push notifications, but I’m not complaining because there’s plenty to keep you opening this app week after week.
Despite the huge range on offer in the App Store, these are – after much research and tapping – the best of the bunch, and while goal highlights in video form and live audio commentary are missing from every one of them, you’ll be hard pressed to find better football apps for your iPhone.
If you’re a stateside sports fan or simply not that interested in football don’t forget to check out Dave’s article about apps to take to the big game, and be sure to recommend any apps you yourself rely on in the comments below.
Have you tried any of these? Which is your favourite? Let us know!
Image credit: Mikel Arteta & Lukas Podolski (Ronnie Macdonald)