Manchester Utd say no to social networking

I read an interesting post yesterday that made me sit up and scratch my head. The article was all about Manchester Utd placing a formal statement on its website which read as follows:

“The club wishes to make it clear that no Manchester United players maintain personal profiles on social networking websites.
Fans encountering any web pages purporting to be written by United players should treat them with extreme scepticism.
Any official news relating to Manchester United or its players will be communicated via ManUtd.com.”

Now for me this is an interesting development, we have all heard about senior directors in various corporates banning the use of social networks like Facebook in work hours but we have never seen a public statement from a Premier League football club banning all usage of them from their players.

The trouble is footballers have been causing trouble left, right and centre with their usage of Twitter and Facebook and the clubs haven’t really got to grips with how to deal with them. Some players have used their networks to engineer moves to other clubs, some have vented their disgust at being dropped from their teams and others have just not thought about what they are doing when they have updated their statuses.

Here are my top five footballer social networking faux pars:

  1. Darren Bent allegedly attacks Tottenham’s chairman as his transfer to Sunderland dragged on and is fined £80K.
  2. A professional footballer nicknamed “Motor Mouth” reveals he plans to leave his club Crystal Palace for Fulham on his Facebook page but manages to inform the site’s 2.7 million London network members.
  3. American Striker Altidore is fined by Hull City FC after revealing why his boss dropped him for the game with Portsmouth FC to all of his followers.
  4. Liverpool winger Ryan Babel enrages manager Rafeal Benitez by writing on his Twitter page two days ago: “Hey people, I got some disappointing news, I am not travelling to Stoke. The Boss left me out the squad. No explanation.”
  5. Thierry Henry apologises for “Hand Gate” the day after the match with Ireland.

If you are interested in footballers on Twitter here is Sport Blog’s Top Ten Footballers on Twitter.

Personally I don’t think Manchester Utd should have banned the players from using all social networks. I think they should have provided some type of formal training and explained the parameters of what they can and can’t do. For instance, we all know that the footballers are properly media trained before they go in front of a camera. They know how to answer interview questions, so why can’t they update their own social networks it doesn’t make sense? The players just need to use common sense before pressing update. In other words, don’t talk about transfers, don’t slate the manager and don’t criticise the club in public. There are three straight away – I could probably write 30 or so if I tried.

The fans love following their favourite players because it gives them some insight into their lives and this has to be good for the clubs. The truth is there is a lot of money involved in this industry and footballers are a completely different animal to the corporate world but I would always recommend training first and foremost rather than outright banning all usage. We will have to watch and see if the other clubs follow suit to finally put a lid on this but somehow I don’t think they will.

What do you think is Manchester Utd using the right approach?

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7 comments on “Manchester Utd say no to social networking
  1. Danny Simpson (@dannysimpson22) might have to close his Twitter down then now that he’s back at United. Interestingly he tweeted the following just over a month ago:

    “happy in newcastle 🙂 whats gonna happen in january
    6:16 AM Dec 16th, 2009 from web”

    Wonder if that sparked United’s clamp down on SN profiles?

  2. @Sam Thanks for your comments. Yeah that could have been the catalyst. The rumours can cost clubs thousands so I can see why it is causing a problem but I don’t think this is the way to deal with it.

  3. I suspect it’s the Darren Bent thing that clinched it – it became a very high profile issue and ‘dirtied’ the idea of footballers tweeting. The more savvy clubs might realise that there may be a relationship between those footballers that tweet and increased merchandising!

  4. @stumith I completely agree – the clubs should see social media as an opportunity for footballers and clubs to connect more effectively with the fans. If the fans feel connected to the players and the club I am sure they would feel the need to attend more games and buy more shirts. Cutting social media out completely just seems daft and unworkable.

  5. Hey, great post and to be fair I agree with United’s policy. Although incredibly gifted when it comes to football, off the field it’s usually a different story. That would happen when you leave school at about 13 though! You can now add Kaka to the list after his twittering last night after the Madrid game!

    Take a look at my blog and social media webcast and feel free to leave a comment – http://jonbuckleypr.wordpress.com/category/social-media/

    Cheers,
    Jon

  6. Thanks for your comments Jon. Yeah I have heard about Real Madrid’s players slagging off the manager. Even if they win the league over there they often get sacked. Twitter and footballers don’t really mix do they?

  7. Pingback: Footballers need social media training or social media policies creating now | Prohibition PR - A Leeds and York Based PR Company

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