Premier League Debate: Should Footballers Be Allowed to Use Twitter?

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IAugust 4, 2011

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Joey Barton of Newcastle gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Sunderland at St James' Park on October 31, 2010 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Technology and football have had a stormy relationship to say the least. The formation of the Premier League in 1992 brought with it lucrative television deals that have changed the shape of the game's landscape radically.

There are those who yearn for a bygone era of the very best players moving for £100,000, 3 p.m kickoffs on Saturday afternoons and lower league teams getting promoted and immediately thrusting themselves upon the established elite, much like Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest did in the late 1970s.

Televised football matches used to be few and far between, with the FA Cup Final in particular being a highlight of the year for all football fans.

Nowadays, however, a fan can watch five games a week without leaving the sofa. It is this technological revolution that has had arguably the biggest effect on football in its 148-year history.

Just looking at English football, promotion into the Premier League could be worth up to £80 million. One single player can, apparently, be worth £80 million. Television executives more or less decide when a game will be played.

Yet some aspects of technology have not been embraced so readily. Video replays, for example, have been a subject of intense debate for years, and only recently has there been a major step forward in the argument.

But another form of technology has been making the headlines this week: Twitter.

The social networking site has provided a platform from which anyone and everyone can express their opinion, including footballers.

These opinions are often uncensored and many are written in the heat of the moment.

Past cases include Ryan Babel's criticism of Howard Webb following a game between his then-club Liverpool and Manchester United, while the very same week Glen Johnson described pundit Paul Merson as an "alcoholic drug abuser."

Perhaps the most famous Twitter case came earlier this year when many users revealed Ryan Giggs as the footballer having an affair with Imogen Thomas.

But the most recent cases have come from St. James' Park.

Left-back Jose Enrique criticised Newcastle's ambition on the site, whereas Joey Barton has used Twitter to voice his displeasure at being told he can leave on a free transfer.

Today, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, having taken counsel from Sir Alex Ferguson, announced that using Twitter to voice any club-related matter is now regarded as a breach of contract and will result in a two-week fine.

The former West Ham boss said, "The problem I have with Twitter is that people are Twittering on there in an emotional state, not just footballers. Sportsmen are an emotive people. They get in an emotional state and then put something out instantly on Twitter. It's very, very damaging."

So should all clubs take the same line of censorship?

On the one hand, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and Twitter merely provides a platform from which to voice it. However, these opinions should really be voiced behind closed doors. The use of Twitter as a means to insult a member of the staff at a club is very unprofessional and punishment for "unprofessional behaviour" has been around a lot longer than Twitter.

But many fans are grateful for the updates they receive. It gives them an insight into the club they love and the club that many spend a lot of money following.

It also gives the player a chance to give his side of a story, a new perspective where previously there was only the template press releases that seem to be the same at every club.

Overall, I think Twitter should be monitored closely by clubs as it does have the potential to cause problems for them. A player's remarks on an official, for example, could get him suspended for a few games.

However, I don't think the site should be banned completely from clubs, so long as players prove they can use it responsibly: they shouldn't say anything on Twitter that they wouldn't say to a journalist.

So, what do you think? Should Twitter be banned, monitored, or just left to carry on the way it is? Join the great debate!