Not one to shy away from expressing his feelings, Joey Barton’s Twitter outburst following Newcastle United’s defeat by Leeds at the weekend has ultimately cost him his job.
Following Jose Enrique’s £100,000 fine for criticising the club’s hierarchy on Twitter, the social networking site, Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s shy and retiring owner set a precedent, laid down a twitter marker, and has told Barton to he has no future at the club. Remarkably sending the player with 12 months remaining on his contract away on a free transfer.
For some reason footballers’ and Twitter seems to be a volatile concoction.
Mick McCarthy said last week he was bringing in a media law firm to educate his players on the use of social networking sites. Setting the scene, McCarthy was worried that ‘some numpty’ may give away sensitive team information because they have become ‘disgruntled’ with a decision made by the club’s management staff.
But not all footballers fall under the ‘numpy’ demographic when it comes to using Twitter. Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) is one of the UK’s most high profile footballers using Twitter. With over 1.3m followers, he has used the social network as a way of connecting with his fan base to great effect.
So where are others going wrong and why is Ferdinand getting it right?
It’s a question of understanding the difference of what is private and what is public. If I [the author] were to publically criticise the company I work for and the management skills of my superiors, I would expect to be shown the door without so much as a good-bye! So when a footballer does the same it’s only natural a club should implement some form of punishment.
But Barton was obviously disgruntled at what was happening at Newcastle and felt things were not going the standard he expected. And who is to say he is wrong? Like Enrique, he felt the club were not living up to their promises and expressed this via Twitter, something that would previously have remained private to the player and club.
On his Twitter account, Rio Ferdinand asked: ‘If players misuse twitter, should we fine them just like the NFL do???’
Well Rio, they already do, and that’s where Mike Ashley’s tough stance on Joey Barton has set the waterline as to how far you can go.
The bit that is hard to sort out is ‘defining the misuse of twitter’…..” Ferdinand asks in a later Tweet.
Player – fan/people interaction is what I love about social networks/apps so to red tape it completely is this the way to go????
Ferdinand feels strongly of the free use of social networks amongst his peers. However, Twitter has become a very powerful communications tool and has opened up a new, direct line to the celebrity world of football. Clubs’ media departments suddenly found they have no control over who their players were talking to and what they are saying.
The media ‘red tape’ has been broken.
But the problem with Twitter is that it’s about expressing your personal thoughts and feelings in 140 characters to your followers. The celebrity footballer can attract hundreds of thousands of followers and a huge array of journalists who had previously restricted access waiting for a story.
Following his outburst, Joey Barton stated on Monday 1st August he would be making ‘announcement’ at 4pm regarding his future on Twitter. Speculation was rife over what the ‘announcement’ could be, then at 3.35pm, Newcastle United made their own official ‘announcement’ via the traditional press that Barton had been released by the club, effectively gazumping Barton who later tweeted:
Somewhere in those high echelons of NUFC, they have decided, I am persona non grata.
I am on a free but the honour of wearing those B+W stripes, surpasses that.
One day the board might realise, what the shirt signifies. HONOUR and PRIDE. Thanks for your continued support……….. #toonarmy
So where do we go from here? Club chairman cannot afford to sack every player that strays from the script on Twitter, nor do we want to see players banned from using it.
Mick McCarthy has took decisive action and in trying to educate his players on the rights and wrongs of social media knowing it would be impossible to ban them from using it.
Newcastle will probably lead the way, along with McCarthy at Wolves, in setting out social media guidelines to help prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.
But as always it’s a tale with two sides so we will be watching and waiting to see where it will lead.