We have tweeted our way through a World Cup and Euro 2012 and, in 25 days’ time, we will experience the inaugural “Twitter Olympics”. At a time when some athletes operate on a financial plane so alien to most, their stream of 140-character messages make them seem more accessible than ever.
The most notable Twitter absentee is David Beckham. He has a Facebook page, which has attracted 19.4million ‘likes’, but leaves his wife, Victoria, to engage with her 3.9million Twitter followers.
Beckham has thought about joining, but lacks the time and inclination to commit to it properly. His four children and age – Victoria tweeted a picture of his cake for his 37th birthday in May – also mean he is less likely to join than, for example, Lewis Hamilton or Andy Murray, who are not fathers of four and have grown up with social media.
The Scot told ShortList magazine: “There’s a lot of negativity and people can say anything. But if they saw you the next day they wouldn’t walk up and say what they said online. I don’t understand people going on there just to slam others.”
This slamming, though, is impossible to ignore if you look at your “mentions” to respond to fans’ questions. Stan Collymore regularly flags up racist abuse he receives, Everton midfielder Darron Gibson closed his account after two hours and Sportsmail’s David Lloyd had a prolonged sabbatical after getting fed up with all the expletives.
This, however, can get you into trouble. Sponsorship deals have been lost and hundreds of thousands of pounds paid in fines as athletes have tweeted ill-advised messages in the heat of the moment. American National Football League players are banned from using social media from 90 minutes before a game until post-match interviews are complete. The instant, unfiltered nature of Twitter is an integral part of its success but could also be its downfall.
One FA employee described Twitter as “a growing headache”. The organisation is responsible for educating the players in the national sides, particularly the youth teams, and for disciplining those who step out of line. The FA also have their own feed, which has 190,000 followers.
Mawhinney said: “There are a growing number of young players who are joining without really understanding its reach. Some have had to learn the hard way but there’s now a sense among players Twitter is something you need to be aware of in the same way as giving a press conference.” – Daily Mail