Is it right to ban players from Twitter?

SamuelMarsden October 20, 2011
Rio Ferdinand absolutely bums Drake! 4 years ago

Footballers love a Nandos don’t ya know? I learnt this off of that Twitter.
Mr Ishmael Miller is the latest footballer to cause a storm in the Twitter teacup. Following Forest’s defeat at Coventry he reacted angrily to fans on the social networking site. Miller is nowhere near the first man who finds himself needing to issue an apology after a Twitter rant- and he certainly won’t be the last.

Sweary tweets or not from his striker, new Forest boss Steve Cotterill would have imposed his social network rules at his new club. Just like he did at Portsmouth. Players talking about their football club, their team-mates and the club’s supporters on social networking sites will find themselves with a fine of £1000 per word.

Our very own Keith Treacy’s Twitter account disappeared last month when it was hacked. People didn’t know where to look when they saw his profile picture, which was, well, inappropriate to say the least. Treacy’s fault or not, players do need to remember the ease of access to Twitter and that their audience age range is from potentially very young to very old.

On the whole, whether by Eddie Howe or Darren Bentley our players have represented the club [fairly?] well on Twitter. But it has been over two years now that footballers have found themselves getting into trouble.

Aston Villa striker Darren Bent was the first to turn to the site to voice his frustrations over his proposed move from Tottenham to Sunderland in July 2009. Did he want to go to Hull? Stoke? Course he didn’t, he just wanted Daniel Levy to ‘stop f***ing around.’

Ryan Babel, a prolific tweeter, found himself in hot water when at Liverpool. He posted a link to a picture of Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt following a game between United and Liverpool. The FA felt it appropriate to step in and issue the Dutchman with a fine.

FA Chairman at the time Roger Burden used Babel’s tweet to underline Twitter must be regarded as ‘the public domain’ and that anything posted on the site is in effect the same as making a statement in any other form of media. Which it is. Even more so now. But this doesn’t make Steve Cotterill’s ban completely right.

It isn’t all bad though to be fair. Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) has used the site well. Whether you want to hear about him picking his little men up, enjoying a Nando’s or listening to Drake is by the by. The fact is he has gained over one million followers who do want to see what he has to say. And at the time of writing he continues to use Twitter to his strengths- he can even mention Manchester United issues without incurring fines. Are you reading Cotterill?

Among other media, Robbie Savage has utilised Twitter to drag his ageing football career into a busy media schedule on BBc 5Live, ESPN and now even Strictly Come Dancing. Fair play to him. Joey Barton has, on occasions, stirred as well. Though he has found himself close to the line on several occasions.

Apart from journalist’s feasting on the occasional slip of tweet from a pro, what value do we really get from the player’s Twitter comments? Apart from the more intimate nature, for me, of knowing what Kieran Trippier is up to or where Chris McCann and Charlie Austin are off to on holiday (can I go there?) the reality is very little.

Personally, I stick to following Burnley players- more out of loyalty than intrigue. Other than that I follow very few footballers. If I’m having a slow day I’ll have a look around and maybe see what Jack Wilshere has got to say or where Wayne Rooney is taking Colleen. But if anything major ever happens I can guarantee the people I do follow will flag it up through either a comment or a retweet.

In my opinion Cotterill is wrong to ban his players from talking about the club. Twitter is now as much a source for players to express themselves as a newspaper interview or a press conference- and they may very rarely get that opportunity.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here, Ishmael Miller’s comment were too much. But players should be able to say if they’re disappointed with their performance, or praise the fans. Cotterill’s ban has some substance, but it has gone too far one way.

Perhaps he could have urged his players to follow the example of Rio. Then if anything is considered too extreme, like Miller’s tweet, then is the time to fine players. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

Do you think Steve Cotterill’s ban is too harsh? Should Burnley players be banned from Twitter? Do you enjoy having a more open relationship with your club’s players? Comment on the right.

  • Jamie Smith

    I went to Nandos yesterday and didn’t see a footballer – do they have their own?

  • Chris Stanworth

    Rio Ferdinand absolutely bums Drake!

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