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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Footballers: don’t make a twit of yourself

(Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti)

Has anyone else noticed all the media stories about sportspeople using Twitter? Golfer Rory McIlroy posted a photo of himself with Charl Schwartzel, the day after the South African snatched the US Masters from him. He tweeted: “Flying to Malaysia with Charl! Glad one of us has a green jacket on!!!”

It’s a shame others - often footballers - don’t tweet so graciously. England striker Carlton Cole has been charged with improper conduct by the FA after making ill-advised Twitter comments about Ghana fans. Ipswich Town youngster Billy Clarke used Twitter to reveal that the Tractor Boys were not going to offer him a new contract. The latest offender is St Johnstone player Michael Duberry, who tweeted an expletive-laced tirade against a referee following a recent defeat.

So, what’s to be done? The way I see it, these are the options:

• Impose a complete ban on players using social networking sites – draconian perhaps, but it was about the only thing that worked well during the England team’s 2010 World Cup campaign.

• Threaten players with disciplinary action if they post anything inflammatory – the prospect of being dropped, made to train with the youth team or suspended without pay for a few weeks could be a stronger deterrent than a fine.

• Ban players from posting anything relating to football on their social networking sites – it works for other industries, why not football?

• Get players to clear any football-related comments with their club’s press office – I’m surprised clubs haven’t done this already, updates to Facebook and Twitter are just as public as pre- and post-match interviews.

• Train players how to use social media sensibly – top players get media training at a young age, so it makes sense to teach them about social networking sites too. Attendance should be compulsory if a player has a social networking account.

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