The following is an excerpt from an article posted on www.manutd.com this afternoon:
“The club wishes to make it clear that no Manchester United players maintain personal profiles on social networking websites”.
The decision to ban its squad members from using the likes of Facebook or Twitter is hardly surprising as it comes on the back of a dreadful run of form for the Red Devils. Defeat by Leeds in the FA Cup, a draw with Birmingham and an uninspiring victory over Burnley was followed up by last night’s Carling Cup semi-final first leg defeat to Man City.
The Champions are also currently in the news for all the wrong reasons (or more to the point the club’s owners are) when it emerged that the Glazers had removed over 10 million in bonus payments despite the club’s huge debt.
The United boardroom has decided to thwart the threat of its players using such digital forums to express any negative opinions about the club. Hardly surprising as news of United’s debt climbing to over £715 million might be enough to ward off any potential investors or buyers anyway.
Star players and fan favourites such as Ryan Giggs or Darren Fletcher posting messages which might reflect badly on the club are the last thing United’s owners need right now. Is this overkill or are United’s board well within their rights to prevent any of its employees from potentially projecting a negative view of the club?
Football clubs have become multi-million pound businesses and negative press of any kind instantly affects the share price of the companies which own the clubs. Expect other big-spending clubs to follow suit with clauses written into players’ contracts preventing them from issuing any personal messages through digital media platforms which might form a negative opinion with fans and investors alike.
Where will it stop though? Will clubs decide that any apathetic interviews appearing in the Sunday tabloids result in the instant prevention of that player from expressing an honest opinion in the printed media?
Maybe United are just overly sensitive right now with reports of the club’s debts beginning to spiral, Gary Neville’s impending date with the FA Disciplinary Committee and the team’s form taking a worrying nose-dive. Social networking sites draw huge worldwide audiences and offer members a unique opportunity to read instant messages from their favourite players.
But the thrill of receiving instant messages from your footballing idol could be no longer if other clubs follow Manchester United’s lead in the coming months.
There is a precedent with football clubs encountering \’digital back lashing’ following Ryan Babel’s tweeted frustrations at being left out of the Liverpool squad last week and Darren Bent’s outburst on Twitter earlier in the season.
Bent became so irritated with Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy’s reluctance to finalise a deal with Sunderland that he took to posting the following message on Twitter to vent his anger:
“Seriously getting p***** off now. Why can’t anything be simple? It’s so frustrating hanging round. Sunderland are not the problem in the slightest. Do I wanna go Hull City? NO. Do I wanna go Stoke? NO. Do I wanna go Sunderland? YES. So stop f****** around Levy”.
Can you imagine if Rio Ferdinand was about to be sold to Real Madrid and the Glazer’s decided to dig their heels in and insist on a bigger transfer fee?
“I am well narked. Me and me best mate Dizzie Rascal are gonna swing on by that Glazer Geezer’s Pad and have it out. Nofin’ and I mean nofin is gonna stop me from joining the Real Galaxy Stars man. Respec”.
Ger McCarthy is the author of Off Centre Circle, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork League junior footballer.