Will Twitter kill the sports press conference?

“Sometimes I’d speak to a journalist, but you wonder to yourself, ‘why do I speak to them if they are going to spin it?’ when I can just say it here myself on Twitter and it shouldn’t get taken out of context” — Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5), Manchester United defender.

Having read the above quote in The Drum today, I couldn’t help but wonder how influential Ferdinand’s (an incredibly influential and prolific tweeter) words could be. I recently predicted that managers would start to use social media as a way of bypassing traditional press, but it was one of my predictions that I was most hesitant about. In an age where media moves faster and to a far greater audience, it’s no wonder that we have seen players get more and more furious as the press try their utmost to get the biggest sensationalist scoop from the smallest comment. However, whilst media has got faster, cheaper and easier to access for the consumer, that same level of access is made available to the player, giving them more freedom.

Rio Ferdinand with a Juventus playerImage via Wikipedia

As Ferdinand suggests, Twitter allows athletes a level of control over the message they want to deliver to their fans. In the past, our only real insights into the lives and opinions of a player came from press conferences or media interviews. Now, more and more players are tweeting and becoming more vocal about the industry and lifestyle. Fans on the other side tend to trust and take notice of their tweets more than that of a journalists – it is after all, straight from the source.

In recent years we’ve seen players show theirdispleasure with transfer matters, grievances about not getting enough playtime and even players win contracts because of their Twitter presence. Generally speaking, the rapid nature of Twitter breaks the latest news before traditional media, even television. So is the next step that players can give their thoughts and opinions about a match (pre game or post) on Twitter before the press conference? I think so.

Usually we get to hear from the manager and then either the man of the match or the captain. Sometimes, if defeat has been particularly bitter, we hear from no one. The difference between Twitter and TV is that on TV it always seems oddly rehearsed and almost definitely full of clichés. Whereas on Twitter (and away from the watchful eyes of managers – who have yet to really get involved), players show far greater emotion and opinions about their team and individual performances. As the new season approaches, I guarantee there will be a noticeable increase in the amount of pre-match/post-match tweets from players, mainly because there seems to have been a huge adoption of the channel in the past 6 months or so.

So where does that leave the traditional press conference?

Whilst Twitter may bring the information in a more real and quicker sense, press conferences will certainly not be killed as an effect. Any fan of football knows that press conferences are integral to the mental aspect of the game. Managers and players use these televised events, not really to talk directly to the fans, but demonstrate their ability as well as try gain a tactical advantage over their opponents. So, no Twitter will not kill the press conference, but what it may do is cause huge headaches to managers – especially if clubs fail to get their act together and start laying down some clear social media policies (Which may restrict matchday tweeting). If we can assume players will tweet more, then we can also assume said journalists will use these tweets to try spin a story at the press conference. If anything, press conferences may get even more dramatic! I hope so anyway.

Sean Walsh

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert.

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