The use of social networking sites has grown steadily in the footballing world of late, with the micro-blogging site ‘Twitter’ taking centre stage.
The craze began when the high profile Rio Ferdinand began to use the 140 character space to discuss various subjects and interact with fans and around the world.
At the start of 2011 twitter had hundreds of footballers from around the world using the site, ranging from International players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas to Wycombe Wanderers’ Nikki Bull and Ben Strevens to name a few.
Unfortunately, coming hand in hand with such an influx is controversy, and as recent as last week there have been several incidents that earned media coverage, and a level of action taken due to a player airing their personal views on the site.
Crystal Palace youth product Dan Pringle used the site to discuss his progression through the academy as well as interaction with friends and fans, and it is here where the lines get blurred between professional and social tweets, as players must remember they represent the club.
After suffering defeat in extra time to Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup last week, a frustrated and disappointed Pringle tweeted his disgust at what he believed were racist comments coming from the Liverpool players toward their opponents throughout the match.
This sparked a mass debate amongst Pringle’s followers and in turn the word spread far and wide, as followers have the ability to ‘retweet’ a comment, ensuring wider coverage is earned. Further to this, many journalists use the site to provide speedy news and ensure hits on their articles by tweeting links.
However, they are also following the sportsman and earn free quotes through such tweets to fill article space. Pringle has since removed himself from the site after his comment earned national press coverage.
Another FA Cup twitter fall out came in the aftermath of QPR’s match against Blackburn Rovers as the London side accused El Hadji Diouf of verbally abusing Jamie Mackie as he lay with a fractured leg.
Several players including Clint Hill and Bradley Orr tweeted, post match, their fury which again sparked debate amongst fans around the country. QPR Manager Neil Warnock has since banned his players from using the site to comment on the club.
Then, of course there is the case of Ryan Babel, who has accepted an FA charge of improper conduct after he tweeted a mock picture of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt after Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup to a controversial penalty decision by Webb.
When questioned on his views, Wycombe boss Gary Waddock said he had no qualms over his players using the social networking site, and trusts them not to misuse it:
“They are a sensible bunch. Comments are made but that is the world we live in at the moment. As long as they are not too outspoken or too outrageous with their comments then we are happy."
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.