Having an adverse affect on football?

Neil Warnock’s sacking from Queens Park Rangers, the club he took from flirting with Championship relegation to the Premier League, was met with mixed reviews from R’s fans. Debates ensued with regards to his tactical competency, dealings in the transfer market and the loyalty that was perhaps owed to the former Sheffield United manager from the fans. But the 63 year old had his own ideas about what had contributed to his demise, and guess what: none of it was his doing.

Warnock, who has a reputation for getting teams promoted by failing to keep them in the Premier League, said:

“It [sacking me] would have been difficult to resist because people get on the phone and tweet and it’s almost like slowly poisoning somebody from outside the club and no doubt from within the club as well.”

The criticisms of Warnock have been well documented over the course of the season but it seems that Twitter, in Warnock’s eyes, was one of the major contributors towards his downfall and he criticised its use by players, fans and even members of the board. It might seem a ridiculous statement but the QPR vice-chairman Amit Bhatia regularly updates his Twitter with proceedings at the club.

Whilst it is easy, and true to an extent, to criticise Warnock’s shifting of the blame on to factors other than himself, as he likes to do after nearly every game, he does make a fair point. When exactly did Twitter transform from a platform for the egotistical to a platform for the malicious? QPR captain Joey Barton is currently on a self-imposed two week sabbatical from Twitter and  it strikes me that if a grown man has to resort to ‘cold turkey’ in order to prevent himself from becoming overly involved in social media then something is seriously wrong.

The problem with social media is that whilst in theory in it is a progressive phenomenon in reality for footballers and football fans it encourages regressive behaviour. For example in the past month Louis Saha, Maurice Edu, Kyle Bartley and Gregory Tade have all been victims of racial abuse. Earlier in the week a man was arrested in Newcastle for similar behaviour following the signing of Papiss Demba Cisse as well. People believe that Twitter and other mediums on the internet provide a protective shield in anonymity and is encouraging behaviour that is not socially acceptable. Before Twitter these people may have been, and rightly so, ashamed to voice their opinions, but on Twitter this is not the case. The same rules apply to homophobia, sexism and a number of other socially unsavoury beliefs.

When used properly Twitter is a remarkable tool for debate, for information and for breaking news as it happens; however it remains to be seen whether those involved in football are capable of conducting themselves in the proper manner.

It is important to debate everything in football, it is also beneficial for fans to be able to feel some connection with the footballers they idolise in a sport where increasingly fans feel disenfranchised and disconnected from the players, and for these reasons Twitter benefits football. But none of those benefits are worth it at the cost of providing angry fans with an arena to direct their abuse at players, managers or anyone else in the public eye. Football has become obsessed with Twitter, perhaps it is time we followed the example of the most loyal perpetrator of social media, Joey Barton, and gave it a break.

Do not follow me on Twitter @H_Mackay

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