Friday, July 27, 2012

Taking care in the (online) community

"What's clear", I wrote of players' use of social media back in January of last year, "is that it's an issue the football authorities and football clubs need to acknowledge - and will, in all likelihood, confront." I wasn't alone - seven months later the Silver Fox, exasperated by ASBO's latest online outburst, appealed to the Premier League to step in and offer some guidelines. And now, a year on, they finally have. Long overdue, given that the guidelines have been released in the same week that overhasty and unthinking fingers have landed yet another footballer, Arsenal's Emmanuel Frimpong, in trouble, and when the memory of Rio Ferdinand's Twitter jibe at Ashley Cole in the wake of John Terry's racism trial is still fresh.

Players who can be bothered to peruse the guidelines (or, perhaps, are made to do so by their clubs) will find themselves offered advice on how to use social media to engage with fans, how to deal with abuse and how to avoid committing an offence - whether that involves using threatening or offensive language to another user, or in a more specific football sense of divulging confidential information about tactics or injuries. Avoiding the latter is a rule that's been in force on Tyneside for some time anyway in response to the ill-advised tweetings of Messrs ASBO and Enrique.

Fair play to the Premier League for not writing off Twitter and the like as nothing more than the cause of stress and headaches. Instead, chief executive Richard Scudamore acknowledged the benefits - namely, that such sites can help to spread the word about the brand (the final day of last season was a case in point) and do actually help to bring the multi-million-pound footballer a little bit closer to the public. Even if all we really learn from the feeds and pages of those we cheer on week in week out is that we don't understand the Yoof Speak of today and that most footballers seem to live in Nandos.




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