With Ashley Cole becoming the latest in a long line of sports stars to apologise for their outburst on Twitter, today I will examine the questions: “Do sports stars really need Twitter to become closer to their fans?” and “Is it really worth running the risk of a fine or charge by their respected sports authorities?”
Gone were the days where you would write to your favourite sports idol asking for a signed photo and a short message back, or wait outside the ground maybe for hours after a football match to get your programme signed by the players. Now it is all about sending them a tweet and receiving one back. Welcome to the autograph of the 21st century.
The boom of social networking in the world now means we can find what celebrities are doing in their day to day life, what film they are going to watch at the cinema, we can even find out what they had for breakfast. So the interaction of a fan and their idol becomes ever closer as they can send a tweet and receive one back in return in the matter of seconds, or maybe congratulate them on a great game. In practise that sounds perfect but as we know in life things are never that simple. It is no significance in life that online abuse has grown 300% in the past year with most of the abuse being used in the way of tweets.
Tom Daley, Rebecca Adlington Darron Gibson are just a few of many sports stars that have received untold amounts of abuse on Twitter from so called “trolls” from followers on their respected accounts. Abuse on Twitter does not just stem from criticism for a bad performance in their sport it also is sadly falling into much darker depths of life as the amount of racial abuse being tweeted has grown 10 fold over the past 18 months with Ashley young, Carlton Cole and Micah Richards all reporting cases of racial abuse to the police.
This month has seen the latest apology from a footballer after a foul-mouthed tweet from Ashley Cole not only got him in trouble with the FA but also running the risk of jeopardising his England career. Ashley Cole became outraged after he was accused of “evolving” his statement supporting John Terry’s defence against a proven charge that he racially abused Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand. Cole took straight to Twitter and wrote “Hahahahaa, well done #fa i lied did I, #BUNCHOFT***.’ Chelsea defender Cole later deleted the tweet and apologised saying “I was really upset and tweeted my feelings in the heat of the moment. I apologise unreservedly for my comment about the FA.” All though the apology was not enough to get him out of hot water with his domestic club as Chelsea will still fine him two weeks’ wages after breaking their social media policy which will cost him in excess of £200,000. Quite an expensive risk for losing your cool.
Ashley Cole is no means on his own in being fined for an outburst on Twitter, in fact he is just the latest in a long line of stars. Arsenal’s Emmanuel Frimpong was fined £6,000 by the Football Association after comments he made on Twitter to a Tottenham fan. Frimpong was charged with improper conduct which included a reference to faith. Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was fined £45,000 by the Football Association over a comment posted on twitter. Ferdinand was charged after appearing to endorse a tweet by another user of the social network site which described Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, as a “choc ice,” a term understood to mean someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside. This after Cole had given evidence the day before the tweet in the John Terry Anton Ferdinand. The list of footballers getting into trouble with comments posted on twitter goes on with Paddy Kenny and Joey Barton to name just a few more and with the ever growing trend of footballers taking to Twitter, it is only a matter of time before another footballer finds himself up on an FA charge.
Football Clubs have tried to curb what their players say on the social networking site and many are taking up the opportunity to bring in a policy where players will be fined if they are found to be disrespecting their club or be found to be acting in an inappropriate way over Twitter and with some players having nearly 5 million followers it goes to show every tweet will be watched and scrutinised by the public. Not everyone has brought into the social network phenomenon with Sir Alex Ferguson many times airing his views on the site, “Twitter; i do not understand it, i don’t know why anybody can be bothered with it, but it is there and as a club we haven given instructions to the players that they cannot talk about Manchester United.” Of course many sports stars and their followers not have any problem in the way they use Twitter and often is a great way to interact with their fans after a specific sport and not more so then after London 2012 when Gold medalists Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah took straight to Twitter to express their delight after winning gold and then to thank their followers for continued support and in return then were sent thousands of tweets congratulating them on their achievements.
So going back to the original question: clever tweets or silly twits? Well like everything in life if Twitter is used in the correct way and Tweeters think before typing then there is no issue and they will not have to face the risk of a fine or charge by their respected authorities but maybe if they are angry and annoyed about a certain decision or situation in their sport then maybe Twitter is not the best way to air then views. This in turn goes for their followers who if are seen to be sending vile or racist tweets then should be banned from Twitter and them selves face a police charge. Although I can’t help but think it is only a matter of time sports stars will be in the news for Twitter but for the wrong reasons.
Image reproduced from foxsports.com.au
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