Neil Warnock has become the latest manager to wade into the dispute over the use of Twitter by footballers, by banning his QPR squad from using the social networking site, opening a debate over the merits of such arbitrary action.
We have seen over recent weeks and months that celebrity Twitter users are unable to stop themselves from saying things they probably shouldn’t, and in the football world this has lead to a few interesting stories.
From transfer requests to questioning refereeing decisions, the format has proven a platform for players to voice their opinions on what they believe to be the key issues.
Warnock’s ban on Twitter has come just days after Ryan Babel became the first player to face an FA improper conduct charge for comments made on a social networking site, and will lead to more managers asking if they should follow suit.
But would prohibiting Twitter make much difference? Since its rise to prominence two years ago the network has brought the previously inaccessible lives of celebrities and sports stars to the computer screens of the world, allowing a greater empathy between player and fan.
The recent clamp down on the network, first by the SFA and then, more recently by Warnock will surely disappoint some fans, particularly if any ban becomes widespread.
The argument for clubs outlawing Twitter is arguably compelling, with managers pointing out that they have too much on their plates to worry about disciplinary action from the football authorities because players are unable to hold their tongue in the most public of arenas. Kenny Dalglish will have already had to sit Babel down and point out the folly of his controversial post involving a picture of Howard Webb and a Manchester United shirt, not the sort of impact the winger had hoped to make on his new boss.
However, if the players themselves are not able to recognise what should and shouldn’t be shared with the world, then there is a deeper problem and one that a ban on social networking is not going to suddenly fix.
The backlash against top sportsmen tweeting has already begun in earnest across a range of other sports. Numerous England cricketers have found themselves in trouble over statements made about team selection, whilst Martin Johnson, England’s Rugby Union coach has laid down the law to his players ahead of the Six Nations.
There are those, such as PFA head, Gordon Taylor who have called for a greater sense of perspective over the whole saga. With the site now so embedded in the news and sports coverage on television and over the internet, that it would be naïve to think that a blanket ban could be practical.
Long-term, it would appear that the number of Twitter-based misdemeanours will be stamped out. It would be nice to think that the social network craze is dialled back by more restrained contributions from the country’s top players, however with so many seemingly unperturbed by the latest developments, it would appear a firm standpoint will need to be taken by the football authorities before the site begins to make football a side show. That sort of action might make Babel “SHH.”