This week I have been mostly thinking about…twitter

I find twitter to be a really useful tool. It’s great for me to post information about new blogs (like this one) and direct people to new items on the site. It’s also great for pointing me in the direction of other blog posts, articles, videos and webcasts, things I would otherwise spend hours with some serious googling finding. It does have its flaws, though maybe this has more to do with the way people utilise it.

Kevin Pietersen this week is one such example. Announcing to the world that he had been dropped from the England cricket team (before any official announcement) and his mild displeasure at the decision was perhaps not the most tactful move. As an aside on this, having listened to the reasons given by the chairman of selectors you can understand why, before heading for an ashes test series in Australia, they want him to get some serious time in the middle in the longer form of the game rather than play a few one dayers and T20 games. If he manages to play himself into some form and score runs in Australia then they will be vindicated.

Pietersen isn’t the first cricketer, let alone professional athlete, to get into some bother with Twitter, Phil Hughes announced himself dropped before the management team had during the last ashes series. Recently, Jordan Crane, the Leicester Tigers and England forward, stated he was injured and out for a couple of months before a full diagnosis had been made much to the anger of team boss Richard Cockerill. Other incidents with footballers, rugby players and athletics stars have also cropped up. Twitter isn’t the only social networking site causing issues, we’ve also seen LTA development tennis players released after posting drunken photos on facebook. It brings up some interesting issues.

Some sports fans like it because they get more of an insight into the mind and personality of their favourite sports stars, others are instead a little disappointed that these role models have a chink in their armour (see Tiger Woods for details). The governing bodies and sponsors aren’t so enamoured as the backlash associated with that kind of publicity isn’t positive. In a world where professional athletes are supposed to be squeaky clean it doesn’t sit well.

For those using twitter to interact I like to see a happy medium where athletes can be themselves and interact with their fans like some of the banter certain members of the England cricket team post, it’s fun and increases my support for them. I’m not a fan of those with really sterilised postings maybe not even posted by the athlete but by their marketing/PR rep, equally I don’t like to see people being negative or ranting about issues and people within what is their job. I think it shows a lack of professionalism, a lack of respect for those you post about and also you never know who will read your comments, it could come back to bite you in the future.

Social networking sites are a large part of society now and as such cannot be ignored, I wouldn’t be surprised if clauses already exist in contracts for athletes to watch what they write and this will become more commonplace. Hopefully though we won’t see censorship and we will be able to continue to enjoy the level of insight and connection we now experience with our favourite athletes.

Neil Welch

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