Football clubs must take responsibility for their player’s Twitter mishaps!

Source: The Telegraph

It certainly has been an interesting week for followers of Sports Social Media, as Premier League midfielderJoey Barton was released from his club (Newcastle United) after having a very public bust-up with the club via Twitter. As a consequence, every media outlet and journalist has been talking about the ever-growing popularity of social media amongst professional footballers. On one hand, this has been excellent for us that have long been trying to promote the profile of social media within the game. However, on the other hand, it’s a shame to see that yet again the press has instead focused on highlighting negative stories rather than the good (Which admittedly are still too few and infrequent in the UK).

One positive element to take out of the whole Joey Barton debacle was a comment from David Sheepshanks, former Football Association board member and current head of the National Football Centre . Sheepshanks said in a Daily Mirror article,

“My view is football has got to adjust to social media and not just here at St. George’s Park[Where the National Football Centre is based], which is all about learning, but also at club level.”

“I hope the programmes will be instituted at club level which will better equip young players to deal with the sort of things that happen.”

Bravo Mr. Sheepshanks.

Far too many seem intent on pointing the blame just at the players. In my opinion, the clubs share an equal responsibility for what their players tweet. The sooner clubs realise that a Tweet is just as influential (and potentially damaging) as a quote to a journalist, the sooner they can start trying to figure out how to educate their players that they must understand and be careful on social channels.

Banning social media amongst players, as a few clubs have done so already,  is a short term quick fix that will most definitely never stick. The ever-changing nature of the game means that players constantly transfer between clubs whether on permanent deals or loans. How can clubs expect players to immediately disconnect with their faithful fans all of a sudden? As long as clubs continue to ban, players will never understand what they are doing wrong, nor will they see the potential value that good social media offers.

Clubs must take responsibility for their players by setting aside time to bring in some experts (Wolves recently brought in a media law firm) and educate the players. Inform them of the value of social media, how to use it, how to talk to their fans, what is best practice and what is not. Use existing case studies to demonstrate what isn’t acceptable. Offer players a social media advisor, so they can ask questions or check whether the tweet they want to send out is ok. Provide them, please dear god, with a social media policy – so at the very least they have something on paper at hand (as well as acting as legal document that the player has agreed to adhere to the clubs internal policy). Even give the manager some training and guidance!

These are not difficult initiatives, nor are they expensive. It is unbelievable how most clubs haven’t even got the basics yet. Clubs need to adjust to social media and they need to get on board now, otherwise players will continue to act up.

Sean Walsh

Founder of and leading Football Social Media expert.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *