The Anti-Social Network – the negative side of the footballing Twitter world

The Anti-Social Network – the negative side of the footballing Twitter world

By TomTom – Your SatNav around Football

Football TwitterWhen referring to Twitter David Cameron once commented that “too many tweets makes a twat”. It is not often that I find myself agreeing with the Prime minister but in this case he has a point.

He was referring to politician’s use of this form of social media, however, he could just as easily have been focusing his warning on our Premiership stars. A footballer falling foul of the authorities for a Twitter violation is becoming an all too regular occurrence in our game.

The counter argument is that Twitter provides a welcome insight into the daily lives of our footballing heroes, bridging the canyon sized gap that had materialised between player and fan. Footballers are given a voice aside from the prescribed, PR controlled empty statements they churn out in press conferences or post match interviews and fans are allowed to see a more human side of their idols. The truth is for the most part it’s not a pretty sight.

Do we care about what they’ve eaten for breakfast or what music they listen to on the way to training? Judging by the amount of followers many of our footballers have it would appear we do and that is in some ways more worrying.  We now know a whole lot more about the people who were previously seemingly so far detached from the people who idolise them. However, our former ignorance is now looking increasingly like bliss as a growing number of players are tweeting their way into trouble and spouting endless amounts of mindless drivel.

Unfortunately, the novelty factor of interacting with these celebrities has well and truly worn off and the result is information overload. And that is the harmless bit. The more ugly side to the transparency of Twitter is the fact that we are increasingly seeing players face the wrath of the authorities for comments that are ignorant, discriminative and in some cases racist.

Along with the Swiss footballer thrown out of the Olympics, Rio Ferdinand is the latest high profile name to be charged by the F.A as a result of his derogatory comments towards Ashley Cole. The brief fling between footballers and this form of social media has turned increasingly sour and clubs now need to rethink their policy on allowing their players complete freedom to use the site. Fergie’s blood will be boiling about one of his senior players making such a basic error and it surely won’t be long before we see him implement a complete ban on his players using the site.

The irony of Ferdinand getting charged for a perceived racist comment against a witness for the defence in a trial centred around racism towards his own brother should not be lost and is indicative of the farce that is becoming the footballing twitter world.

Agents all round the country must be losing sleep in anticipation of the potential storm they might wake up to the next morning as another of their clients forgets to apply the filter to their keyboard and ends up on the front page for offending one section of society or another.

It is true that footballers are in the unusual position of having their tweet scrutinised and comments which were intended as a joke between friends are often taken out of context, but it is now time to step in before the fans very public love affair with the human side of their heroes ends in a messy divorce.

Footballers have enjoyed a lack of censorship that they been shackled by in all other forms of their interaction with the public but is has now turned into a free-for-all. To my mind the solution seems a simple one. One rule is required. Do not say anything racist, homophobic, discriminative or undermining of the club. If this rule is breached irrelevant fines are not the answer, players need to be suspended.

In fact the length of the suspension should equate to the number of characters used in the tweet in question. For example a 140 character racist tweet would end in serious consequence, leading to the player banned for roughly half the season. Now that would make players think before mindlessly typing. If footballers cannot be trusted to be aware of basic right and wrongs then clubs need to spell it out for them and if they continue to breach these rules then they are deserving of serious punishment. They could also threaten to close down the player’s account. The worrying thing is I’m not sure which ban players would be more upset about.


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About TomTom
“Having studied English at university and always been a keen footballer and fan, combining the two has always appealed to me.” - Tom Lytton-Dickie. -"I'm a recently qualified journalist and I've worked in newspapers and broadcasting. I'm a dedicated follower of all sports primarily football, tennis and cricket." Tom Allnutt

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