In this week’s Two Points Lost, Lucas Howe explores the combination of footballers and social-media and asks – is it all just a bad idea?
Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand’s recent Twitter outbursts have been criticised by many for being too outspoken. However, the two Chelsea left-backs have also found some support for expressing their views. A debate that divides opinion, the question remains: should sport stars censor their tweets, or should they be allowed to play on the same field as the everyman?
With footballers being highly charged, often hot-headed characters (added to the fact that they’re often not being the most intelligent of people); they can often find themselves impulsively, and exasperatedly, thrashing it out on their keyboards.
Ashley Cole for example, following the John Terry trial, took to Twitter to brand the Football Association (who are essentially his bosses…) a #BUNCHOFT***S. The majority of the press castigated this action, with some journalists considering this tweet the stupidest of all time.
While Cole inexplicably has still not received any formal punishment from the FA, Roy Hodgson took it upon himself to drop the Chelsea star for his vulgar outburst. It is also expected that Chelsea themselves are going to reprimand Cole for his actions.
Cole’s understudy at Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand, followed suit in rousing a social-networking storm as he reacted angrily to fans’ claims that he withdrew himself from the England squad for the matches against San Marino and Poland due to a sore throat. While his frustration were aimed at those accusing him of not being fully committed to the England cause, his actions still faced criticism with his irate message featuring offensive language (although Bertrand’s grammar was probably more offensive than the tweet itself!). Despite receiving backing from England boss Roy Hodgson, who claimed Bertrand’s actions were “laudable”, the young left back has since apologised for his actions and deleted his Twitter account.
Both Bertrand and Cole have been offered support by the highly-opinionated journeyman, Rohan Ricketts. The former Tottenham, Wolves and Shamrock Rovers midfielder claims that these instances offer the public a representation of the “authentic footballer”, and believes that footballers should not have to censor themselves too stringently – supposing that the same lax parameters that fans are restricted by should be the same for these high-profile stars.
This is, however, surely a ludicrous claim. Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand are both representatives for their nation, and with this comes the responsibility to act appropriately in public domain. Granted, their feelings are completely justified, but their actions certainly are not.
The exploits of Ashley Cole would parallel that of a frustrated Joe Bloggs slamming down his stapler and abusing his boss. Joe Bloggs wouldn’t get away with it, so Ashley Cole should not either.
Furthermore, although Ryan Bertrand’s tweet was relatively tame in comparison, he is a role model. With Twitter not having an age screening, literally anyone can set up an account: therefore many impressionable young people would have seen Bertrand’s tweet.
But how should these instances be avoided? For the most part, it’s extremely interesting to gain an insight into how these superstars live their lives – so their Twitter stock is particularly valuable. So the premise of footballers shutting up shop and ending their Twitter lives would not be prudent.
The agents and PR teams of these players need to take a more hands-on approach to dealing with how their clients deal with social-media. The main duty of these people is to ensure the reputation of their clients remains positive, and so all this negative PR will damage their image or brand (especially for a player like Ashley Cole, where controversy never seems to far away). Because footballers are becoming more about being a brand, this is particularly important. It would be beneficial for all parties if the agents and PR teams moderated these tweets and public outbursts – though not too stringently, so as not to distort the presentation of the “authentic” footballer.
With footballers being quite so highly charged, it seems irresponsible to leave high-profile stars to their own devices. Without some form of temperance, footballers and the social-media represents a recipe for disaster.
Do you think these high-profile footballers should be able to view their opinions whatever they believe? Or do you believe that they have the duty to act appropriately in the public domain? We’d love to hear from you, so leave your comments below.
Follow Lucas on Twitter @lucas_howe (he keeps his tweets clean for the most part…)