Twitter, whilst being a hugely popular social networking site, can also be described as a bit of a minefield. It can be a dangerous place and it can bring out the very worst in human beings. It’s also widely used by almost any famous face on the planet including footballers, ex-footballers, pundits, football experts and journalists. Many people’s tweets reflect their thoughts, feelings and opinions on a particular incident or subject. These opinions can, naturally, be quite outspoken and provocative and therefore this often leads to either healthy debate between fans of opposing views (and teams). However, it can also unfortunately lead to vicious arguments and attacks.
This was certainly the case when a couple of individuals targeted Stan Collymore for racist abuse and even death threats at the weekend after the ex-England international suggested that Luis Suarez dived to earn Liverpool a penalty against Aston Villa. In the aftermath of this, Collymore deleted his account and you can hardly blame him. People who have the temerity to say such spiteful things behind a laptop, tablet or mobile device screen go far beyond the behaviour of the archetypal internet “troll”.
However, footballers aren’t just on the receiving end. Frustratingly, they continually prove that they’re equally capable of dishing it out themselves. Therefore, is the growing relationship between footballers and Twitter a healthy one for the beautiful game? Due to the huge numbers of followers that they attract, footballers’ tweets are always under the microscope. They need to be careful. In fact, in the last couple of years, some players have been hit with a fine from the FA, the tweet in which Rio Ferdinand agreed with one of his followers who referred to Ashley Cole as a “choc ice” springs to mind. Nobody should discourage players from sharing their dressing room banter publicly but all too often the borderline is crossed.
Undoubtedly, their online presence is intended to be positive most of the time. Fans can use their accounts as a source of news and to find out the latest developments at clubs they support and it helps to establish common ground between the players and fans. Certainly, it has shown sceptics of the beautiful game that these mega rich millionaires are in fact human, as if there were any doubt about that! In all honesty, the relationship between footballers and Twitter is dependent on the players themselves. In fact, a consummate professional on the pitch and who behaves well off the pitch, should never get into any trouble on Twitter.
Whilst there are many examples of footballers who conduct themselves very well online, there are also far too many footballers who are getting into hot water. And then of course, when they’re not getting fined by the FA or a slap on the wrist from their managers, they have the fans to deal with. As we saw in the Stan Collymore case, their minds and typing fingers know no limits. All in all, footballers and Twitter seem to combine to create negative news stories whether the footballers are the culprits or the victims. Frankly they could do without it but it looks as if the trend between the two has already been set, if you forgive the terrible pun!