“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” Aldous Huxley, the famous English writer and satirist’s quote can be applied perfectly to the effect social media is having on sport currently. It’s fair to say the world of Twitter is somewhat of a divisive topic, indeed there are certainly question marks over the benefits it brings to the sporting arena.
Twitter has literally exploded onto the scene recently, especially for those involved in sport. In some ways, Twitter and sport have a healthy relationship, it has done wonders for the average football fan for example, who now has unrivalled access into his club’s activities, learning team news before anyone else, hearing about rumours of new signings, but more importantly, offering them a chance to interact with their favourite players. With football becoming more commercialized by the year, Twitter could provide an invaluable link to reconnect with its grassroots. Take Jack Wilshere for example, who had a good natured bet with Spurs fans that his beloved Arsenal would finish above them in the league this season. Moments like this are a stark reminder of what football used to stand for, a form of entertainment for the supporters’ benefit, not a business market for Russian oil tycoons or rich Sheiks. Ricky Ponting made an excellent point when discussing the site, stating “It is your job as international players to promote the game and be the best you can for the game. And if we can use social networks, if that brings people closer to the game, brings people through the gates to play, then that’s what it is all about.”
Journalists also see the significant benefits to micro-blogging. News filters through that bit faster; therefore those Twitter-savvy reporters can release stories that bit quicker than their rivals, something essential in today’s competitive industry. It makes it that bit easier to find the source of news as well. Take transfer deadline day for example. Crazy rumours fly around the web with no-one knowing what to believe. Was Lionel Messi really spotted house hunting in Hartlepool? Through Twitter, it becomes easily apparent when something is about to happen, indeed everyone picks up on the story and goes with it; Louis Saha’s move to Tottenham this January is a good example of that. Twitter has added a new dimension to the growing world of multimedia journalism, and people are beginning to use the site to provide their breaking news.
Alas, there is always a negative. And that’s the conduct of the people using Twitter. Firstly, there’s the players themselves. They just can’t seem to keep their mouths shut. More and more players are being cautioned over statements they have made on the site, ranging from slagging off members of their club, like Darren Bent who was fined £120,000 for his foul-mouthed rant at Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy to others, like Nathan Eccleston show just why footballers are believed to be one intelligence level above the monkeys, giving this opinion on 9/11: “I aint going to say attack don’t let the media make u believe that was terrorist that did it.” Very clever. This sort of behaviour has led to clubs already banning players from using the site, indeed Leeds United barred all their players from joining Twitter after David Somma revealed online he would be out for six months.
Recent public behaviour has also been alarming. The growing level of racism on the site is, quite frankly, disgusting and this has brought the reputation of Twitter into disrepute. Arrests have been made over people’s comments to sports stars, indeed two 17-year-old boys were arrested on suspicion of malicious communication offences, after calling Newcastle striker Sammy Ameobi “a n*****.”
The mindless actions of some individuals are ruining the site for all. The positives of using Twitter are there for all to see; it provides new links for players and clubs alike to explore and has a huge future in the world of sport. However, this future may never be realised if the current trend of misdemeanours continues. Players need to be monitored on what they say, as whilst freedom of speech is a wonderful part of our democratic country, the amount of professionals charged with misconduct through Twitter is becoming ridiculous. They need to realise when and where to keep their mouths shut, otherwise clubs may follow Leeds’s example and remove access to the site altogether. As for the mindless idiots, well it’s impossible to control them. Widespread condemnation and serious repercussions for the abusive types will hopefully resolve the issue.
Twitter is the symbol of the changing world of sport, and therefore everyone can hope that such recent issues can be combated to ensure that social networking and sport can maintain that positive relationship. #fingerscrossed.