Have a look for any of your favourite footballers on the social networking site twitter and it is quite likely that you will find them tweeting away from what they are having for their breakfast to have they think they played to their many thousands of followers.
The site is helping to bridge the gap between fans and the players with a large number of footballers at all levels embracing the social media phenomenon. It not only gives players a place to communicate with the public on a personal level but also allows them to voice their opinions. Not always a positive thing it seems. In this news on demand society, a footballer’s tweet can very easily become the next headline, something that managers will not want to see.
Darren Bent, Ryan Babel, Rooney, and this week Jose Enrique, who was fined £100k for tweeting about his club’s contract and transfer policy, are just some of the players to have fallen to victim to twitter and the controversy can cause.
Only this week, Leeds United manager Simon Grayson has banned his players from using the site to communicate with fans. It comes in the wake of South African striker Davide Somma posting details about his knee injury on his personal Twitter account. Grayson said:”There are certain things within football clubs that shouldn’t be discussed in a manner like this.” He added: “In the case of Dave’s injury, I wanted it to come out in the right manner when everything was 100 per cent confirmed and all the right people knew.”The guidelines are there for the lads to follow, but if they can’t be followed then I’m simply not having it. I have told them I don’t want them using it.”
However when the gulf between the multi-millionaires footballers and the paying fans is so large doesn’t twitter now give them a tool to bridge the gap where they can engage every day. So Grayson’s policy rebuilds the wall between the fans and players that has been developed and instead of banning the site, a series of robust guidelines for usage would surely be more productive.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy also seems to follow Grayson in scorning the social media site and he has acted to ensure there are no more embarrassing incidents this season. A media law firm is now liaising with the club and McCarthy has revealed that anyone who reveals any team secrets will face a heavy fine. “Players are going to get themselves into trouble over Twitter,” said the Wolves boss. “I can’t ban it but they have to be careful what they say. If they put a team selection up, which I’m sure some disgruntled numpty will do, they will be in trouble.” McCarthy’s hatred for Twitter stems from an incident last season when Greg Halford, tweeted after Wolves’ match with Chelsea: “With Steve Sidwell [of Aston Villa] in the stands, read what you like into that.” Sidwell was on the edge of joining Wolves but within 24 hours joined Fulham. “Some twit tweeted Steve was at the Chelsea game and it became common knowledge,” explained McCarthy. “He was having a fitness test the next day and his agent gets a call from Mark Hughes and he signs for Fulham.”
With this sort of example it is understandable why under-pressure managers would want to ban twitter and it is likely that others will soon follow suit to avoid any unnecessary controversy during the upcoming season. In this news savvy world if a player tweets that they are missing today game, this is likely to be widely reported and so could therefore have a negative effect on the team.
However we need to find the right balance for the potential of positive player-fan engagement with the inevitability for embarrassing and controversial situations. This is a great tool to bring the loyal fans closer to the players, it just needs some new guidelines to avoid players tweeting themselves into trouble.
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