Major sports leagues still are not quite sure what to make of Twitter, which has simultaneously allowed players to interacts with fans on a direct level and made for a platform that is easy to misuse. One sports governing body, however, is attempting to find a way to use the medium successfully.
Twitter has evolved in English sports world, where today, aggressive fans feel the right it seems to criticize players, and even threaten some. It is that disturbing trend that has prompted the Professional Footballers’ Association to warn players about the dangers of social media, and to be “vigilant” when they are networking. It is not just an advisement to be careful about Twitter gaffes and outburst, which is commonplace among franchises and leagues. Instead, it is a warning that there are dangerous people out online and players should be careful with whom they interact.
As the English leagues and other major football competitions have wrapped up, an item near the top of the off-season agenda is social networking, set off by several incidents over the past year. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney got into a argument with a fan online, prompting Rooney to retort, “’I’ll put u asleep within 10 seconds.” Rooney discarded the importance or seriousness of the exchange, but many more players have had similar instances.
Rooney’s teammate Darren Gibson opened a Twitter account only to be bombarded with derision, forcing the youngster to shutdown his account mere hours later.
”Very much on our agenda for the beginning of next season is how best we would advise them on how to use all social media,” said Bobby Barnes, deputy chief executive of the PFA. You do have to be vigilant when you are in the public eye.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger summed up the issue ever so simply, but accurately, saying “it can be very positive because it can be a good communication for the players with the fans which doesn’t exist anymore.”
Wenger added, “It would be a real shame if players were driven off these sites on the basis of saying it is just not worth it. It is not just footballers, once you are out there, you are not always going to get people responding to you in a positive way.”
So what are clubs to do? There is an interaction between players and fans on Twitter that cannot be replicated in the locker room via a beat reporter, nor from the stands while a game is taking place. Still, if there are fans who are going to hound players consistently, athletes don’t have to stay. Professional athletes know they cannot avoid the media, and they develop a relationship and an understanding between one another, even if they don’t like reporters.
Unlike giving interviews after a match, athletes do not have to talk to fans. So far this development of angry tweeting has manifested mainly in England, yet to spread stateside. By going on public sites and interacting with fans, athletes can’t expect only friendly banter and worthy praise. Still, if they are constantly hounded, they don’t have to be there and the unprecedented access may just as quickly be lost.