Many companies have guidelines in place for staff regarding the use of social media – and indeed, even employment contracts often request that staff act as ambassadors for their organisations. However, football teams appear to take a different stance.
QPR’s very own ‘bad boy’ Joey Barton managed to cause a storm online this week after using his Twitter feed to swear at Alan Shearer and call Gary Lineker an ‘odious toad’. The furious flurry of tweets came after team captain Barton was sent off for elbowing Carlos Tevez in the Premiership-deciding match against Manchester City (Barton has accepted one charge of violent conduct from the FA). At the time of the sending off, Alan Shearer stated, with uncanny prescience, that Barton was “never going to calm down”. Taking offence to this, Joey later used Twitter to swear at the player-turned-pundit. When Gary Lineker sprang to Shearer’s defence, he immediately got some of the same treatment from the disgraced player.
Although we are used to footballers behaving badly, Barton – who has spent time in jail for assault – has taken this streak to a whole new level. Those around him have clearly not tried to rein in his attitude (or he’s just ignored the advice) and, as a result, Barton’s future at QPR is now being called into question.
Players might behave badly from time to time, but surely their clubs have a role in corralling their actions both on and off the pitch – even on Twitter?
Making Barton Captain of the team was perhaps a surprising move to begin with. Now it seems like a huge error in judgement. Whether you agree with the principle or not, the fact is that footballers are role-models and ambassadors for their sport. So when one of them behaves this badly, it taints the game as a whole.
Will Edwards is managing director of media training consultancy Bluewood Training