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Phone-goal for Finnish football

PK-35's fortunes have been transformed by text messaging. (Photo courtesy of Makra)  

By CNN's Simon Hooper

HELSINKI, Finland (CNN) -- The closest most football fans get to influencing their teams' fortunes is by shouting in vain from the sidelines.

But Finnish side PK-35 have found a more civilised and effective medium by which supporters can communicate their opinions directly to the bench, via a mobile phone text messaging hotline.

"PK-35 is the pioneer team," says Jussi Rautavirta, who developed the "Clubmanager" system for sports marketing company Makra. "This is the first season it's been used."

Supporters can register as a "manager" by sending the third division club a text message.

PK's first team coach Janne Viljamaa then sets them questions during the week about training sessions and before a match about tactics and the starting line-up. A linked Web site with video clips allows managers to see their suggestions put into practice on the training ground.

During the match Tuomi can set further questions allowing supporters to influence substitutions and make further tactical changes.

"If the team is leading he'll ask whether to play more defensively, or if a team is losing, he'll ask which striker he should bring on," explains Rautavirta.

The system has proved popular not only with PK supporters but with computer football management and fantasy league junkies.

"At first people were thinking: Is this true?" says Rautavirta. "Now we have over 200 managers."

PK's supporters have so far justified their club's unprecedented faith in their management skills by guiding it to promotion to the second division, with just one defeat all season.

And that only marks the beginning of the club's ambition. In 1998, PK finished third in the top division of Finnish football.

But when sports mogul Hjallis Harkimo needed a football team to play in Helsinki's new Finnair Stadium he brought the entire PK first team and renamed it FC Jokerit after his ice hockey team. The original club was left struggling on with its former reserve team in the third division.

"A lot of people want to see PK-35 get back to the top league," says Rautavirta. "PK-35 has just been promoted. Our main goal is to get to the TV matches. They will make things happen for Clubmanager."

Rautavirta says other clubs have also expressed their interest in the system, but so far Finnish national coach Antti Muurinen remains unconvinced.

But Rautavirta doesn't think coaches have anything to lose by delegating some of their power to supporters.

"Managers are a bit confused and could feel their job is being taken away from them. But this system makes things more interesting for the people who pay the coaches' salaries."

And Rautavirta says that the system won't allow failing coaches to pass on the blame for poor results onto a club's supporters.

"He's still responsible -- he sets the alternatives."


• Club Manager
• Makra

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