Football and social media

Football is the most popular sport in the UK, with the Barclays Premier league the most watched league in the world. Fans of the BPL have many different ways to keep up with the latest news through different platforms especially social media with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all ways of finding out breaking news stories in the football world for example a player signing for a new team or a controversial comment from a footballer.

Social media is a platform for people from all around the world to communicate for everyone to see which is evident for footballers with everything they post under the microscope due to their status. Using social media can have a positive impact as fans are able to interact with their favourite player and have more of an insight into their personal life. It can also have a negative impact which has been seen more recently with Rio Ferdinand picking up a three match ban for offensive comments he used on Twitter.

Growth of social media in football

The graphic above shows how football teams being on Facebook can have an impact, showing what they post can be seen and liked by millions worldwide. Shows how football teams have taken advantage of social media through Facebook by setting up their own personal page dedicated to their club bringing people who have liked the paged the latest news and pictures from training and matches. This helps bring the fans from all around the world together as they can interact with each other on Facebook through a team’s page.

More than 35% of UK football supporters on Twitter now follow their team, athletes or media more closely than before they joined a social media network, and feel more closely bonded to that team. This trend is even stronger amongst 16–29 year olds, with 40% of them using social media to follow their team or sport more closely than before. This statement shows just how big a part social media plays in bringing football fans and their club together and especially the younger generation. This helps bring in new fans from around the world on different social media platforms helping to boost the teams profile in countries where they may of been lesser known before.

Article showing the most popular football clubs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram . The article shows the presence of social media when a big story breaks in the football world. For example when Angel Di Maria signed for Manchester United this summer there was a 12 times increase on Google searches on the day of his transfer showing how many people were keen to find out more about this player. Also when Dutch footballer Daley Blind signed for Manchester United his amount of Twitter followers rapidly increased by 72% showing how many people Twitter were interested in finding their clubs new signing by following his movements on Twitter.

This article shows how new signings for teams in the Barclays Premier League get an increase in Twitter followers.

This is a quote I took from an article regarding how important Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward thinks social media and the part it plays in bringing in fans and interacting with them.

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman said. “The club has 61m followers on Facebook, 3.8m followers on Twitter with a cumulative total of 87m followers across all social media. We’re directly in contact with over 100m fans, when you add in our 37m of CRM records [“Customer Relationship Management”, United’s fan information database].”

Woodward’s last comment is the big reveal of why United and their competitors are in a social media arms race to engage digitally with supporters. The modern-day leviathan club views itself as a multinational concern involved in a quest to corral as many fans worldwide for optimal commercial return. And a prime way of doing so is through virtual platforms. The social media big four of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram offer instant and direct access to potential new supporters with the hope that these will become consumers.

The quartet have become vital to United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the other clubs that rank among the 10 most popular on their respective platforms. Today’s football is no longer about just the fans who turn up to watch their team; far from it.

This article shows how much football and sport dominated social media in 2014. With the top 10 most tweeted moments all football related during the 2014 Fifa World Cup. This article displays well how big Twitter has become in terms of football news spreading and how popular football players have become through social media.

The Good

Football players using social media can have several positive impacts. It can be used as a way to interact with fans helping build a strong relationship between the club and the supporters, this in turn would help boost the clubs reputation. For example some players on the social media site Twitter choose to run their own personal competitions where they will give away a football shirt as a prize to one of their followers. In my opinion this shows footballers in a good light, showing they care about the clubs supporters.

This article shows how footballers are just normal people as well showing their good nature and how they can be down to earth. Footballers are built up to be above everyone else because of the money they earn but this shows how untrue that can be. In the article the digital media editor of Ipswich Town said:

“We do encourage the players to use social media and if they do use it then we will set out Club guidelines that we expect the players to adhere to. We try and keep it simple — don’t post anything that will bring the Club, your teammates or yourself into disrepute and don’t post anything that you wouldn’t say to a reporter.

I believe it is a great way to interact with the fans and vice versa. It allows the supporters to gain an insight into the everyday life of being a professional footballer and gives them that little bit more access to the playing staff.”

This shows how some football clubs have plans in place for when their own players use social media and what they expect from the players. They encourage them to use it but expect them not to post anything that will damage the clubs reputation or their teammates reputation.

Football clubs can use social media to keep fans up to date with the latest news and activities regarding their club through tweets on twitter, pictures on instagram and Facebook. For example keeping fans updated on the score of a game with running commentary every couple of minutes which summarises what has happened during that period. Also through social media they could post of a picture from the match to show what’s going on for example a showing who has scored in the game.

This article shows how the growth of social media in recent years has helped clubs to make money and interact with fans from all around the world who before may of had limited access to their own team. With football teams creating Twitter, instagram and Facebook profiles it allows them to bring in more fans and allows the club to increase their popularity.

The Bad

Football players using social media can have negative effects which has been proven in recent weeks with Queens Park Rangers Player Rio Ferdinand picking up a three match ban for offensive comments he made on Twitter. This would be damaging to Rio Ferdinand’s reputation and Queens Park Rangers reputation, with this type of behaviour being clamped down on it may lead to fellow professionals watching what they post on social media as anything they say can be seen by millions so they will come under scrutiny for anything deemed unprofessional.

Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp would be keen for his players to keep a low profile on social media as he wouldn't want any distractions for his team when on the pitch so the recent trouble with Rio Ferdinand would have caused his some concern this video clip below shows Harry Redknapp discussing Twitter.

I think this shows how more young people are using Twitter now asthe older generation aren’t as familiar with it.

Comments made by Rio Ferdinand would ask the question whether football players should be using social media websites, with this being said there are tools available for clubs to help monitor what their players are saying.

Another negative news story from footballers using social media in recent weeks has been Mario Balotelli being investigated for a potentially racist and anti-Semitic post on instagram. This would be cause for further concern when it comes to football players using social media. In this case Mario Balotelli claimed he meant no harm by his instagram post but it just shows how much care footballers need to take when posting on social media as what they say can be deemed offensive by others even if themselves seen it as a joke or mis-communication.

Mario Balotelli has always been seen as a somewhat controversial character in the world of football and is known to speak very freely sometimes not thinking before he has said something. With his latest controversial post on Instagram it was always going to raise eyebrows because of how he is perceived.

A major negative of social media is the abuse people receive at the hands of others and footballers aren’t immune from this with many players receiving racial abuse. This is a dark side of social media and footballers don’t deserve that type of abuse because at the end of the day they are human as well.

Social media training would be one way to help educate football clubs about how to use social media to their advantage while keeping them aware of the dangers.

There are different aspects to social media training for football clubs and how abuse can be stopped/reduced online:

  1. Ban Social media

One option would be to ban social media at football clubs. This would sound like a logical solution to stopping players making tweets which could cause offence and bring the club under the spotlight. It has been attempted but its turned out to be unenforceable and it presents the club in a bad light to the fans. The temptation is there to ban social media at football clubs but long term there are few benefits.

2. Create a deterrent

This would be fining players for posting something unprofessional or even dropping them from the team which in turn can act as a future warning that this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated and other players may take note. For this to work it would need to be consistently done and the punishment would need to be sever enough, for example a small fine wouldn’t be enough due to the high wages footballers earn it wouldn’t affect them a great deal.

3. Provide social media guidelines

These help to educate players on what is expected of them when using social media, helps set out what would be a misuse of social media but also how they can use it in a positive way. This would be epescially useful for younger players as they are less experience to the footballing world and the pressures it brings.

4. Realtime monitoring

A recent development in monitoring players on social media, is social pundit something I mentioned earlier . This allows clubs to monitor players 24/7 against a database of trigger words. For example if a player was to tweet something and it contained one of the trigger words, an email would be sent to the club and the tweet would be recorded and saved even if the tweet is deleted by the player. This system helps clubs identify players that are causing problems on Twitter as well act as a warning to others.

5. Trial and test players

This is done by setting up fake press conferences where players are questions using things they have posted on social media showing how it can be used against them in the real word. This is effective as it tests their reaction to negative media.

Birmingham City cleverly use a players own Tweets (usually the ones of a controversial nature) against him/her to illustrate just how easy it is for something as innocent as a tweet to quickly put the player in a difficult spot.

6. Focus on the positives

Showing players how they can use social media to their advantage is an effective way as it helps forget the negative aspects of social media. Clubs have had success with by showing how a positive presence on social media can help them commercially after football in their personal life.

By encouraging players to build a positive online profile and engage a positive relationship with fans, they hope it will stop them from causing controversy by posting something stupid.

This article shows how football can help tackle people who abuse others on social media websites.

Last season, 50% of all complaints about football-related hate crime submitted to anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out related to social media abuse. This shows how serious the level of abuse online is.

I think social media will grow even more over the next 5–10 years with new things being brought in to boost football teams and football players profiles even more which should bring in more revenue for a football club which is a major positive. Football is becoming more business orientated and through social media, new ideas can be picked up to create more money and plans. I think overall social media is a major positive for football as fans can find out news at a quicker rate, interact with other fans from all parts of the world, fans can use social media to keep track of a particular game, follow their favourite football players on different social media platforms. Fan interaction is the one thing i think will keep improving and this will help improve relationships football clubs and fans.In the future I can see football clubs moving onto different media platforms in order to interact with fans and boost their following further. for example I wouldn't be surprised to see football clubs use snapchat to interact with fans . One club has already started using snapchat- Southampton FC, I expect many others to follow. .The few negatives that come with social media and football need to be handled and watched carefully. The abuse football players receive is disgusting as they are human beings who are trying to entertain millions around the world so more needs to be done to control this by handing out bans to people who use social media to bully and racially abuse others, even prison terms for people like this would help combat the problem.

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