Football clubs and the “problem” of Social Networking

by Calvin Berry

Controlling a workforce is never an easy task.

Companies are always trying to make sure their staff stay in line with the rules and regulations and Football clubs are no different.

Football clubs have always had trouble trying to keep in control of their players but it is easier said than done.

Every year there are always players unhappy who want changes or even want to leave and there always will be, however the ways the players are expressing their discontent continues to change.

Going straight to the manager or owner is still the correct way to deal with problems and is the best way to make sure your concerns will be dealt with. This was once virtually the only way to express concerns however times have changed and continue to do so.

The newspapers always have liked exclusives and a discontent player or problems at a football club is always going to sell papers to interested or worried football fans. Radio stations , TV channels and Internet sites have also cashed in on this as technology advanced over the years and they all joined at some stage the race for exclusives and big stories.

Clubs have had to try and stay private to make sure nothing leaks to the press that they don’t want but this is difficult and continues to be a worry for clubs when trying to make sure they control their club and everyone linked to it.

However over the last few years a new threat emerged that is more dangerous to an extent than the press to football clubs in regards to news leaking out from clubs: Social networking.

Private profiles means not just that news can leak quickly from journalists or sources before a club has time to release a statement, but also that players and staff can leak information or say things they shouldn’t say, giving the press a story without them having to do any work to get it.

Social networking is like a microphone on players at all times and is very popular amongst them. Many high profile players such as Rio Ferdinand, Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney have countless amounts of followers so the spotlight is on players at all times watching what they say.

Ryan Babel, Carlton Cole and Darren Bent are some of the most famous cases of players going out of line on Twitter and all three have had to pay fines to their club or footballing authorities after comments they have made.

One of the biggest stories in football right now is the Joey Barton episode at Newcastle and his Twitter account is the cause.

Barton more than once has stated his concerns or unhappiness with Newcastle due to reasons such as a breakdown in contract talks between him and the club and the surprise transfer of his friend Kevin Nolan from Newcastle to West Ham.

Things have got to the stage where Newcastle had enough and have said he can leave for free while also fining him two weeks wages . Even this has not stopped him and Barton has laughed off his fine, saying they are “kicking a man when he is down.”

Whether Joey Barton is right to have concerns is not the big story, the fact that he has publicly stated them before talking directly to the club has caused a stir. Clubs are now trying to find ways to prevent situations like this with social networking sites.

Former Rangers boss Walter Smith banned his players from using social networking sites near the end of last season due to a poor run of form and it seemed to work a treat as, with less distractions, Rangers went on to claim their third successive league trophy and also won the League Cup to complete the double.

Leeds United have banned their players from using Twitter recently after a pre-season game in which striker Davide Somma was taken off injured and he leaked into the public domain that he would be out for six months before the manager Simon Grayson and his staff could tell certain personnel who needed to know the information first.

Banning Twitter and other sites altogether may seem extreme but some clubs will see it as the right thing to do. I am sure Mike Ashley and other owners will think of George Orwell’s 1984 and wish they had a way of controlling their players but thankfully free will stops a situation like that happening!

Time will tell if it works out for Leeds but until clubs can to an extent find a way to control what players say on social networking sites you can safely guarantee that stories like the Joey Barton one will continue to surface and cause a stir.

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