How does it affect you?
- A standard Premier League/Football League contract states at clause 3.2.5 that players must not knowingly or recklessly do, write or say anything which is likely to bring his club or the game of football into disrepute or cause the club or the player to be in breach of the Premier League / Football League rules. Breach of this clause could leave a player liable to a ban, a fine or even dismissal.
- In addition, whilst clause 4.8 of the playing contract states that a player shall be entitled to make a reasonable reply to any media comment or published statement which is likely to adversely affect a player’s standing or reputation, this must only be done in a responsible manner and must not be done in a way which is likely to breach clause 3.2.5.
- Similarly, The FA have confirmed that comments posted on social networking sites can be considered public comment and if they are improper, threatening, abusive, indecent, insulting or may bring the game into disrepute then this may lead to disciplinary action. Furthermore, any postings which may be viewed in this way could also lead to civil proceedings being brought against a player by those affected. In addition, consideration should be given to the Club Rules or any specific social media club policies and any image rights agreements you may have.
- It is evident from The FA’s disciplinary approach to the use of social media that both itself and the clubs are keen to ensure that their brand and reputation are not damaged by inappropriate use of such sites. As such, it is essential that you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities when it comes to social media. The PFA has therefore created this guidance note to assist you.
Positive use of social media allows you to communicate and interact directly with fans thereby instilling a sense of loyalty and connection between supporters, players and clubs.
This can counteract the complaint which is sometimes made, at least by the media, that players can be too far removed from the supporters. It can also encourage fans to become more actively involved with the club for example by becoming members or attending matches more regularly.
It can act as a useful medium to impart crucial information about the club and its current activities such as, for example, information on upcoming fixtures or other news worthy items.
Blogging can help to boost your own and the club’s public image, for example, by increasing awareness about any charitable activities you undertake.
It can also enhance your own and your club’s commercial activities and revenue generation by allowing you to globally and publicly promote any commercial ventures you may have.
Issues relating to football are often of interest to the public. It is important therefore to recognise that everything you say may be obtained and published by the media and may be misreported or misinterpreted, even if you had intended the content to be uncontroversial.
Recent cases have established that anything posted on a social networking site, regardless of the intended recipient, may be considered public information.
As blogging is therefore considered to be information in the public domain, anything which is written should be treated in exactly the same way as you would approach any comment given to the press, for example by way of an interview or a press conference.
Furthermore, messages which are intended to be private and for a particular person can be forwarded on or published without your consent. Take great care therefore with what you write and to whom and always be confident that if a message were to be published this could in no way leave you open to criticism or punishment.
In addition, posting false or defamatory material might not only leave you open to punishment from your club and/or from The FA and legal action, it may also have the effect of seriously damaging your public image.
Finally, discussing team mates or fellow professionals in a negative light may not only impact on team morale but in extreme circumstances could lead to criticism of you, for instance if a controversial incident then occurs on the pitch or if there is any problems between rival supporters.
Things to Remember
- Avoid commenting on matters of a sensitive nature whether they be football related or not. Bear in mind anything you say may be published and placed in the public domain and is, as such, open to the possibility of misreporting and misinterpretation.
- Avoid being critical of anyone – regardless of whether they are connected to football or otherwise, but particularly those who hold positions of authority such as referees, officials, club executives, employees of or persons connected to The FA and any sponsors.
- Avoid commenting on injuries or team selection as you may be disclosing information which is not in the public domain and could give an advantage to your opponents and land you in trouble with your club.
- Be completely certain of the accuracy/legitimacy of any information before posting it, notwithstanding the other issues you must consider in terms of appropriateness.
- Always bear in mind the instant nature of such messaging and avoid making any comments in the heat of the moment at times of frustration or anger. You should assume that once the message has been sent, it will be publicised and even deleting it later will not prevent problems arising.
- If you are unsure whether a particular post, comment or message could be considered controversial – don’t post it!