Wolves educates players on pitfalls of Twitter. Should athletes have social media policies?

In an article in today’s GuardianMick McCarthy (Manager of EPL club Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), announced that the club had brought in a media law firm to educate their  ”first-team and the club’s academy players about the perils of posting messages and pictures that could come back to haunt them”.

Furthermore, McCarthy – the least likely manager to show some sense when it comes to social media – stated that there was no point in banning his players from Twitter. McCarthy argued:

“Players are going to get themselves into trouble over Twitter, I can tell. I can’t ban it and I’m not going to try. But they have to be careful what they say on it about the club and its policies. If they put a team selection up, which I’m sure some disgruntle anyway [to] make it known just because they are not in the team.”

Wolves, Football League Champions. Molineux St...Image via Wikipedia

The action comes after Wolves player Greg Halford (then at Portsmouth on loan) tweeted a suggestion that Steve Sidwell (a transfer target for Wolves at the time) was poised to sign for the Midlands club. However, Sidwell later went on to move to West London team Fulham Athletic and left McCarthy pointing the blame at Twitter and Halford,

“I think what really should highlight that [I won’t discuss transfer targets with the media] is we had Steve Sidwell at the Chelsea game. Some twit tweeted it and it became common knowledge. He is on the running machine here and having a fitness test the following day and his agent gets a call from Mark Hughes and he goes and signs for Fulham. Do you think that had anything to do with the gravepine or that Twitter line? I think it probably did.”

Fair play to McCarthy, he could’ve easily gone the way of Simon Grayson at Leeds and simply banned his players but he recognised the impracticability of this and instead has ordered his players to be educated. It was only yesterday, after the Jose Enrique debacle, that I suggested clubs need to start formalising Social Media Policies for players and start educating rather banning. It is refreshing to see an old-style and gruff manager like McCarthy (who you would never suspect to be even the slightest bit sympathetic to social) recognise that teaching the difference between right and wrong is more effective than a simple ban.

By bringing in media lawyers, the club has openly recognised that they perhaps are not equipped to preach and teach, so they’ve gone to some experts. Ok, at the minute, it’s just lawyers and ideally they would be talking to a social media specialist, but its early days. It was also massively positive to see McCarthy suggest that there was a need for the Social Media Policy to be integrated into pre-existing club policies and procedures – thereby giving it the attention and authority it deserves.

Sean Walsh

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

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