With the FA yesterday charging Ryan Bennett with misconduct in relation to comments made on his Twitter account it has reignited the discussion around top level footballers using it as their preferred method of communication.
While it’s clearly not within anyone’s gift to comment on the precise nature of Bennett’s comments, it did involve him exchanging some forthright views with a few Arsenal fans following the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates.
With the precise wording of the FA charge citing ‘…use of abusive and/or insulting and/or threatening words in comments posted on a Twitter account’, one can take a reasonable guess at the gist of the conversation. If you’re the owner of an enquiring mind the precise FA Rule that he’s been charged under is E3.
Those hoping to retrospectively ‘follow’ young Bennett in the hope of catching a glimpse of the offending comments will be disappointed; he closed his Twitter account prior to the FA charge being made formal.
The Club’s official website also confirmed that ‘Bennett has already been the subject of internal Club disciplinary procedures over the matter’.
All in all a little bit of a mess for a young man who, on Saturday, turned in a tremendous Man-of-the-Match performance that included notching the all-important first goal; such is the life of a professional footballer. From hero to zero in the space of four days.
While it’s no consolation to him right now, he’s clearly not the first to have fallen foul of the FA’s stringent – and relatively new – social media rules, and he certainly won’t be the last. In fact he’s in good company: Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Joey Barton (naturally) amongst others who have crossed the line in the view of the game’s ruling body.
Just prior to deactivating his account Bennett tweeted: ‘Officially going to delete Twitter! Seems you can’t say what you want on here.’ And to be honest, it’s difficult to argue.
By choosing this particular platform to share their thoughts with all and sundry, these young men simultaneously expose themselves to the possibility of abuse – the verbal kind – some of it vile, uncouth and vicious.
Those who ‘followed’ Grant Holt – another who has recently, of his own volition, deleted his account – will know that some of the comments directed at him were of a kind that no-one should be subject to, whether they be a footballer, pop star, royalty or Joe Bloggs. Quite frankly, credit is due to our leader for connecting with his public for as long as he did given the level of abuse he suffered.
But does derision and castigation come with the territory of any public figure who opts to tweet?
Is it simply the price you pay for exposing your thoughts to the entire world?
With thick-skin being a pre-requisite of any public figure on Twitter, some are clearly able to manage it better than others; the aforementioned Mr Holt being an absolute past-master at put-downs.
The legend that is Darren Huckerby – another example of a model tweeter (@hucks6dh6 for those that way inclined) – is clearly more than able to hold his own when keyboard warriors chose to throw insults his way; his views on the Luis Suarez biting incident provoking a foul-mouthed response from Liverpool fans who could clearly see no wrong in the Uruguayan’s actions.
Others are far less able to contain their feelings. As well as carving a reputation for being a handful on and off the pitch, Joey Barton’s Twitter feed is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. A recent exchange with another social-media devotee, Piers Morgan, gave a worldwide audience to the most personal of tiffs; Barton – or @Joey7Barton – claiming to have ‘won’ the exchange on points with, presumably, a higher calibre of insult.
While, in his QPR days, Barton fell foul of the FA’s rulebook, he now appears to have honed his tweeting skills sufficiently to avoid le knuckle-rapping – or perhaps the French FA have rather more liberal view on insults in 140 characters or less.
On a more positive note, City fans were made more than aware of Kei Kamara’s (or @keikamara) unbridled joy at joining the Canaries on loan long before he pitched up at Colney; Twitter giving him and the awaiting Yellow Army the perfect platform to exchange pleasantries prior to his arrival.
So while the conclusion is all too obvious – Twitter like most things has its pros and cons – there’s no doubt that we now have access to our heroes unlike in any other era in the history of sport; a reply, a retweet (RT) or even a ‘favourite’ from one of our heroes now being regarded as a badge of honour.
While these can thrill and titillate in equal measures, the same platform exposes those same heroes to the bile of those who regard them as anything but.
For examples of how it can be used entertainingly and effectively we need look no further than our own Darren Huckerby and Kei Kamara (must be a San Jose thing) – Joey Barton too entertains and enlightens, albeit in a rather more ‘edgy’ way – but the flip side are the faceless unknowns who choose to use the voice Twitter gives them for altogether more divisive purposes.
Quite where Ryan Bennett fits into all this I’m not sure – until events unfolded at the Emirates he appeared a model tweeter (if indeed there is such a thing) – but one assumes that if he does again enter its murky world he’ll be doing so in a less-confrontational manner.
Finally, for those who wish to engage in healthy #NCFC debate, look no further than our dear old friend, Adrian Durham (aka @talksportDRIVE) who still insists that, despite reaching 38 points with four to play, this City side is the worst one ever to grace the Premier League. While I would never condone the use of abusive or aggressive language, I defy anyone with green and yellow blood to read said gent’s #NCFC related tweets without the hackles rising.
Try it… take it as a challenge.
So, tweeting aside, all eyes now turn to the Britannia as City look to seal the deal.
Let’s just hope on Saturday evening #pulis is trending for the right reasons if you’re a #ncfc supporter. Better still would be #jobdone.
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