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Football and Twitter: Relationship on the rocks?

In the world that we live in these days, with social networking left, right and centre we have seen the popularity of sites such as Twitter hit an all time high.

In recent times it has become a popular hub within which footballers, past and present, have been able to express their feelings and be followed online by the fans that pay their hard-earned cash to literally follow them on cold weekends and weekdays. Football players of the modern age have become a part of celebrity culture and social media outlets such as Twitter make it possible for players to communicate with their fans, which on paper seems harmless and a nice concept.

However, the idea of Twitter becoming a part of the football world has come under scrutiny recently, with certain controversies and controversial figures making headline news as a result. Is Twitter in the football world worthwhile with the problems it is causing? Questions have been asked as to whether players should be allowed on Twitter at all. The Football Association certainly seem to have their own view of the situation.

It has been reported that, within the last month, the FA has become increasingly concerned about players using Twitter to the point where they have written letters to clubs about the conduct of players when using the website.

The FA have discussed the increasing number of complaints received with regard to tweets by players, and the letters sent to clubs warned that what is said on Twitter still has to keep within the rules of the governing body. For example commenting on match officials, the use of threatening language and posts about race and sexual orientation are all not permitted under FA ruling. This seems fair enough. However, a certain outspoken individual disapproves of the FA’s involvement in such issues.

Philosophical quotes

Mr Joseph Barton has over 1 million followers on Twitter and has lately become as well known for his antics on the site as his antics on the pitch. In addition to philosophical quotes that Barton seems fond of, he also branded the FA an ‘Orwellian organisation’ for their involvement with the issue of predicting scores on Twitter. Barton had predicted a Manchester double in the recent Super Sunday, which saw City take on Spurs and United beat Arsenal. Accurate predictions.

However , the FA deemed it unacceptable for players to predict the outcome of matches and therefore sent Barton a personal letter, which of course he brushed aside threatening ‘if I get another letter, I might have to consider retiring from international football in protest’.

He also claimed that the FA needed to keep up with the times and couldn’t police something they knew little about. It is of course not the first time that Barton has come under the spotlight for his use of social networking. He had a run-in recently with reality television personalities which made the tabloids as well as his recent spat with his former manager Neil Warnock, where Warnock was told to ‘shut it’ and ‘take a look in the mirror’ for his comments regarding his departure from QPR, which saw him lay some of the blame upon the site. Whether Mr Barton’s comments are right or wrong, it seems that his use of the site seems to get him, his club and ultimately the game the wrong sort of attention.

Having said that, Barton to a certain extent seems to have a point. It would be ridiculous to think that the FA could stop players from using the site because we live in a society where freedom of speech is accepted and why should players not be allowed to use it as us ‘mere mortals’ are allowed to. I think that the approach that the FA is taking in trying to regulate the use of Twitter is a good one and as well as this the FA have decided to educate younger players on how to use the site appropriately, which again is a good way of trying to incorporate social networking into the game in a positive way.

So what is in store for the rocky relationship between football and Twitter? Seemingly Twitter is here to stay and the more it is incorporated into football positively, the more its power can be harnessed for the good of the game.

By Joshua Howells

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