Monday, 1 August 2011

Footballers caught between a tweet and a hard place?

Fast car, designer wardrobe, celebrity girlfriend, Twitter account. Yes, it seems an account on the social media platform is the latest must-have for today's generation of footballers.

As a football fan, I read Mick McCarthy's rant on his players' use of Twitter last week with great interest.

Just to recap, the Wolves manager claims that a tweet by one of his players alerted rival clubs to the availability of midfielder, Steve Sidwell - a player who was apparently set to sign for Wolves before being made an offer from Fulham, which he subsequently accepted.

Inevitably, McCarthy's ire is that one of his 'disgruntled numpties' (his words, not mine) is, via Twitter, given the freedom to undermine the management of the football club. I can understand his concerns, which leaves his players, as well as countless others needing to think a little more carefully before they tweet. McCarthy himself acknowledges that he'd struggle to completely ban his players from tweeting, but the outburst is certainly food for thought.

We've all witnessed the pitfalls of allowing an individual free reign of the comments they make public on social media. Today's footballers are considered brands in their own right, with sponsorship deals and public adulation following their performances on the pitch. Presence on social media further increases the way players are scrutinised, which is something clubs themselves are becoming increasingly aware of.

Former Liverpool midfielder, Ryan Babel was fined £10,000 by the FA for criticising referee Howard Webb's performance against Manchester United last year. But the sporting twit of the year award has to go to former Aldershot striker, Marvin Morgan, whose mindless 'I hope you all die' message to fans landed him with a suspension, a fine and ultimately being slapped on the transfer list.

Examples such as these go some way towards validating the suggestion that footballers perhaps don't represent the most intelligent cross-section of society. That said, they go some way to giving us all a lesson on how not to use social media.

Interestingly, the NFL in the US has its own Twitter policy - stipulating that players must not tweet 90 minutes before kick off and until they have met their post-match media obligations. How long before regulations such as this are introduced on this side of the pond?


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