Friday, December 9, 2011

Eat, Sleep, Play, Tweet

These days many sports professionals’ comments and opinions are easily followed via many social media platforms, particularly Twitter.  Paul Shuttleworth, Head of Employment law and member of the Sports Law team at JCP Solicitors explains more:

The use of Twitter has seen many footballers fined by the FA for criticising referees as well as Kevin Petersen in trouble for questioning the methods of the selectors when dropping him from the England cricket team.

Recently Joey Barton (pre his transfer to Queens Park Rangers) fell foul of his then employers Newcastle United FC, over comments he made on his private twitter account. The Football League’s Chief Executive Richard Scudamore has recently commented “the whole Twitter thing is interesting; I encourage Twitter with a caveat that players realise that they are talking into a microphone”

Barton’s case is an interesting one as he is a prolific  “tweeter” and for a footballer who has over the years attracted more than his fair share of adverse publicity, he has a huge following (over 517,000 followers), his tweets themselves are not standard footballer fare either and he regularly delves into psychology in the content of his tweets.

Alan Pardew commented “If you criticise the owner, the masseur, a player, anyone at the Club in fact, it’s in breach of Contract”. He added “we have notified the players, they probably see it as another sort of dictatorial moment from us.  We have had to issue them legally with a letter to say this is not right, it is a breach of Contract and they have to understand that they are going to be fined and disciplined for it.”

He pointed out “the problem with Twitter, we need to get hold of this.  We have got nothing from the Premier League on how to deal with this.”

This indeed is an interesting comment given that some of the higher profile players on Twitter (Rio Ferdinand for example) have hundreds of thousands of followers and therefore once these thoughts are committed to print and the “Tweet” button is pressed they are broadcast instantly to huge numbers of followers.

The use of social media tools such as Facebook or Twitter presents commercial and marketing opportunities for sports businesses and high profile individuals, but these opportunities also come with a potential downside, if the information which is being blogged, tweeted or released on these forums is damaging to the reputations of others. It is a new hazard that sporting organisations are facing in the 21st Century.

Clearly it is imperative that clubs and organisations now have in place a coherent, robust and manageable Social Media Policy.

For more information please contact Paul Shuttleworth on  or 01792 529636 or follow him on Twitter @employment_sol