The official Manchester United site announced on Friday that “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.”
Of course, the unspoken point here is that Manchester United have ordered players to cut-off any online social networking. This morning, EPL Talk reported that this has led to the removal or emptying of many Facebook or Twitter accounts for Man Utd players: “Our research reveals that Twitter accounts have been removed for Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher, while Facebook accounts have been removed for Wes Brown. Meanwhile, the contents of the Facebook wall for the following footballers have been erased: Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand. Pictured above is the wall of Ryan Giggs’s page on Facebook showing that the contents have been removed.” (image from EPL Talk shown here above)
As we’ve mentioned before, the increasing use of social networking sites by players is a nightmare for professionals in communications departments. All of a sudden, information taps are flowing all over the place uncensored by the teams. It’s interesting to think that Ryan Giggs has long been shielded from the media world by Man Utd and Alex Ferguson, going back to his earliest days. This was perhaps wise in his younger days (the shadow of George Best’s experiences still hung over Old Trafford then), but one would think a man in his mid-30s could be trusted to communicate sensibly to the world.
We all know that as fans, this method of communication has a huge upside. It allows us to get to know players better, to get to know them personally, at least virtually (especially on Twitter; Facebook stalking is a little weird). Players in MLS have used this particularly well; but it might be even more important for those in a stratosphere of their own, the Premier League, to be able to remind us directly that they are human beings, as Richard at a More Splended Life points out:
I don’t follow many players on twitter, nor do I “fan” players on facebook. Most of the time it’s because I don’t find they have very much of interest to say, except maybe Jimmy Conrad. But at least sites like Twitter have provided a means to cut through the high-gloss celebrity, the insular world of footballers, who increasingly behave like anyone would, stuck in the land of lost children. I know all the professional reasons why players shouldn’t be using social media, but the more you keep these people separated from the rabble, the harder it’s going to be to empathize with any of these people as anything other than well-fed thoroughbred horses
Sometimes we want to know our heroes are human; Manchester United have made that harder for their fans.
- In more Man Utd news, a newspaper report claiming the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST), a long opponent of the ownership of the Glazer family, had called on Alex Ferguson to resign in protest at that ownership, has been amended. It seems that one member of the Trust had made a personal assertion in favour of this, but a statement from MUST denies it is their official position: “Contrary to reports today regarding Manchester United supporters calling for Sir Alex Ferguson to resign MUST (the Manchester United Supporters Trust) wishes to put it on record that we believe the organisation and the vast majority of United supporters are 100% behind Sir Alex Ferguson. The only people we want to see leave Old Trafford are the Glazer family.” MUST says the Guardian has edited its piece after they contacted the newspaper. Meanwhile, they also say a peaceful protest against the Glazers at Old Trafford was stopped by security in a fashion that was “brutal and almost certainly illegal.” More on this later.
- In a bizarre, brief piece by the Chief Sports Writer for the Telegraph, Kevin Garside, he explains why “why ‘soccer’ will not take off in the United States.” His evidence appears to consist of one caller to a talk radio show in New Orleans pronouncing “Pele” as “Paylay”. This may be the single worst attempt to ever to understand the culture of another country, and soccer in the United States. Congratulations, Mr. Garside.
- And let’s hope this man does not end up editing the Independent, after making a series of very ill-considered comments on a football fans’ website.
- Patrick Barclay in the Times says that a serious problem with the use of video technology in cricket should make us wary of their implementation in football; though I think a broader look at their general success in many sports, along with a series of substantial trials, would a better test than one recent mess in that sport.
The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.