Many leading sports stars, worldwide, but especially in Britain of late , have seen themselves involved in disputes with their own sporting authorities thus it is of little surprise to hear that the GAA are planning to issue guidance to players and officials having also consulted the FAI, the IRFU and that august body ,FIFA.
The main emphasis will be to make one and all aware of the consequences that members of the GAA family might face by Tweeting or posting comments on Facebook or other social media concerns. GAA Director of Communications Lisa Clancy told TV3 : “Any social media that’s there; people have to realise once they publish on it, it’s for public knowledge”. Really ?
“We’ll be issuing overall social media guidelines for everybody, players, and officials, just to give them a guide to make them aware of the responsibilities they will have if they’re going on Twitter (for example). But everybody’s personal Twitter is up to themselves”.
The GAA has of course already embraced Twitter - and Facebook – while Director General Paraic Duffy included references to the need for making good use of social networking sites to communicate with younger GAA members, in his Annual Report.
In January 2011, Liverpool’s Dutch international, Ryan Babel had the dubious honour of being the first footballer in Britain to be charged by the Football Association for comments made on his Twitter, following some contentious decisions by Howard Webb in an F.A Cup tie against Manchester United.
The offending tweet featured a mocked-up photo of the referee, Howard Webb, wearing a United shirt, with the message: “And they call him one of the best referees? That’s a joke.”
Babel was fined £10,000 and warned as to his future conduct . He had already apologised for his comments but that was not enough to save him from the fine, modest sum though it was for a Premier League footballer
The F.A’s Regulatory Commission Chairman Roger Burden said at the time : “ Social network sites like Twitter must be regarded as being in the public domain”
“All participants need to be aware, in the same way as if making a public statement in other forms of media, that any comments would be transmitted to a wider audience,” added Burden.
“It is their responsibility to ensure only appropriate comments are used.”
There later followed an official F.A Statement – on the subject of ALL “social networking sites” – , issued to all clubs and via the Media as well as being published on its own FA.com website :
Headlined – ‘The FA has issued clarification to participants relating to the use of social networking sites, including, but not limited to Twitter, Facebook and internet blogs’ , the statement went on:-
“Participants should be aware that comments made on such sites may be considered public comment, and that further to FA Rule E3, any comments which are deemed improper, bring the game into disrepute, or are threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting may lead to disciplinary action.
“Comments which are personal in nature or could be construed as offensive, use foul language or contain direct or indirect threats aimed at other participants are likely to be considered improper.
“Participants are required to act in the best interests of the game at all times and should be aware of this when using social networking websites. Furthermore, participants are reminded that postings on social networking sites which they believe to be visible to a limited number of selected people may still end up in the public domain and consequently, care should be exercised with regards to the contents of such postings.
“In addition, we would remind participants that social networking postings could also lead to civil proceedings being brought by affected parties.”
So which other sportsmen and sportswomen have been offending their Associations?
Well Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice certainly lost her sponsorship by Jaguar and caused a major stir in the land of Oz after tweeting “Suck on that f**gots” after Australia’s win against the Springboks and the Tri-Nations whilst English cricketer Keven Pietersen has fallen foul of the authorities more than once ,most recently ,just before the start of the 2nd Ashes test at the Adelaide Oval.
@kevinpp24 as he is best known on Twitter , described the Adelaide ground staff as “pathetic” in an irate outburst as the England team were forced to move indoors, to protect the pitch. Pietersen had exclaimed: ““What should a groundsmen (sic) make sure he does 2 days out from a test match???? Cover the nets when it rains maybe???” Then adding : “PATHETIC!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Next day the Australian public had a few choice words for @kevinpp24 not all of them printable whilst a subdued England P.R team did not rush to his defence. Nor did they when he had last Summer been dropped from the England team and commented (before the team had been officially announced) : “Done for the rest of the summer!!, – ”Man of the World Cup T20 and dropped from the T20 side too.” Pietersen then described his ‘sacking’ as ”a f**k up”.
Though he immediately removed the tweet it had already been seen by most of his then 30,000+ followers - and the British media – it did of course also greatly increase his number of ‘followers’!
Back in 2009, now Aston Villa and England star, Darren Bent, then an out of favour striker with Spurs chose to ‘assist’ his transfer negotiations with criticism of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy who was simply in Bent’s views trying to offload him to the highest bidder. Bent’s thoughts then? : “Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go Stoke NO do I wanna go Sunderland YES, so stop f***ing around Levy.” Bent later joined the Makems not that he endeared himself to their fans when but a few months ago he ‘moved’ to Villa a few hours before the transfer deadline and thus not allowing his employers to time to get a replacement. Hopefully he will not fall foul of Gerard Houllier as have Richard Dunne, James Collins and Stephen Ireland to name but three but then maybe Bent has learnt from his past Twitterings.
On the rugby front, Leicester Tigers banned their English international Jordan Crane from Tweeting,initially for three months, after he revealed that he would be out of action following a pre-season friendly, ankle injury sustained against Munster. The club’s Director of Rugby, Richard Cockerill later added: ”He is banned from tweeting. The next time he does that I will break both his ankles. None of our players will be tweeting or Facebooking anything about Leicester Rugby Club ever again.”
Thus far whilst there are a number of leading Irish sports stars – including several from Mayo GAA players , using Twitter,nothing very sensational . Among other Irish worth looking out for are Rory McIlroy, Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll, Tommy Bowe,Graeme McDowell,Nicolas Roche, Noel Hunt and the aforementioned Stephen Ireland .
As for the latest ramblings from sports stars on Twitter and other Social media outlets, here is a glimpse of what they are saying just now from my own favourite of the many sites devoted to this subject.:
Another good one, with more of an International flavour is: