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Sport.ca puts amateur sport front and centre

Roger Power has been working on a dot-com idea for a long time.

In fact, the web domain for his business was registered back in 2001, before the tech bubble burst. Power has been developing and refining the sport.ca business model ever since.

Its out there now, just a click away, earning a modest amount of revenue. But it has the potential to become a moneymaker, clear across the country.

And when I say just a click away, Im not kidding. In the bar at left, click Local Sports. Go check it out. Ill meet you back here.

Impressive, isnt it? What you see is an extensive list of local sports results that have not been generated by The Telegram. The service has been contracted out to sport.ca, an online venture that is concerned exclusively with amateur sport, and helps solve a problem that has vexed sports editors for years: how do you allocate resources to the coverage of local sporting events?

Its easy for a media outlet to say we are committed to covering local sport but delivering on that promise is impossible sports reporters cant be everywhere at once, and some amateur events are more important or interesting than others.

Sport.ca solves this problem be creating a platform for ALL amateur sports teams and organizations to report their results, news and events. Amateur teams and leagues sign up, and complete an online form whenever they want to post a game score or announcement. Their entries are posted immediately to the sport.ca site. Users can even submit photos.

In an interview, Roger Power said the sport.ca project has been simmering since 2001, but didnt really come to a boil until 2006. His strategy has been to develop a product with strong appeal for daily newspapers, then take it across the country, one city at a time.

And its happening. With The Telegram on board, Power is expanding the service westward. It will be launched at four dailies in Nova Scotia very soon, he said. Were aiming to have it in all provinces, starting on this end of the country.

Power said the success of sport.ca will be driven by the grassroots appeal of amateur sports.

Its local sports on a national scale, he said. A lot of people are sports fans and following the big leagues, but more people are playing local sports, and parents, children, husbands, wives and friends are interested in what they are doing. Theres a following there. There are so many leagues with scores and activities that are newsworthy to a small group of family and friends. If you can replicate that group by a factor of thousands, then there you go. Right now, weve got around 1,600 teams participating, and thats just organic growth low-key, word of mouth.

Power is serious about making sport.ca work. He has five employees working to maintain the service, refine it and add new innovations. In addition to the web service, we have a mobile phone application too, and now were just getting into Internet Protocol Television or IPTV but thats still in the formative stage. Thats on the horizon.

While the content is generated and read online, it also provides a source of copy for the sports editors, who can use the local feed in print editions as well.

My whole philosophy is that you have to link those two, Power said. Newspapers arent going to die out for at least 10 or 20 years, so The telegram can take our feed and the papers sports reporter can browse it, take whats happening locally and print it in the paper Its good for story leads too.

Powers biggest challenge has been promotion; spreading the word about his business on a limited budget. But he is gaining a foothold.

The people who decide if its valuable are definitely the users, he said. If they like it, more and more teams will submit every year. Its convenient for the newspapers and they get recognition (from their readers) for what they do. If I scored a goal last night, its good for me. Me and Mom. Because that is our audience people who are playing and just having a great time at the grass roots. It really puts the pros to shame. This is what sport is all about. Its not about big contracts. Its about getting out there, getting some exercise and having a good time. With sport.ca, they can share that with people. Theres a place for elite sport, of course, but look at the sheer number of people who are playing amateur sports, who are looking for an outlet. Weve recorded tens of thousands of game scores already. Its a huge iceberg of activity. Newspapers know its going on, but theyd need a legion of reporters to cover it. Were saying, hey, you can report on everything. Never before could they do that.

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