Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Twitter in the World of Sport.

Is Twitter compatible with the world of sport?

With the news this morning reporting that a 17-year old man has been arrested over malicious tweets aimed at Tom Daley, following his fourth-place finish in the men’s synchronised 10m platform dive, we question whether Twitter truly has a place in sport.

After the diving display yesterday, it has been revealed that Daley received a tweet from user ‘Rileyy69’ stating, ‘You let your dad down I hope you know that’. With Daley retweeting the message, Rileyy69 was quick to apologise but the damage had been done. Daley must have been hurt by the tweet as he followed this by saying, ‘after giving it my all… you get idiots sending me this’.

Daley’s father, who tragically died last year after a long battle with cancer, was key to Tom’s success, following him around the world to give him support and inspiration at competitions. Tom received great support after retweeting the message from both fans and fellow Olympians, most notably dive partner Pete Waterfield and swimmer Keri-Anne Payne.

This incident further adds to the negative coverage Twitter has gained so far from these Olympic Games.

Racist tweets

Two athletes competing at the games have already been sent home for what has been deemed as racist tweeting. The most recent of these was Swiss footballer Michel Morganella, who took to Twitter after his team was beaten 2-1 by South Korea. The player was clearly riled throughout the game, receiving heavy booing from the crowd after feigning an injury from a non-challenge with current Arsenal player Park Chu Young. The tweet, which was in French, included calling Koreans ‘mentally handicapped retards’ and saying that they should ‘burn themselves’. The player clearly lost his head and deserves to be expelled from the games.

Prior to this incident, Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou had also been expelled for tweets mocking African immigrants and for clearly supporting the far-right Greek party Golden Dawn. Papachristou has apologised for the former of these tweets, calling it ‘unfortunate and tasteless’, but was still forced out of the team by the Hellenic Olympic Committee.

Both incidences have been seen as a breach of the Olympic Charter which states that; ‘the practice of sport is a human right… without discrimination of any kind’. It further highlights the need for regulations when it comes to the usage of Twitter by top athletes and sportsmen. Whilst the United States Olympic Committee are leading the way in this department, many countries still have a long way to go in understanding sensible usage of the micro-blogging site.

Outside of the Olympics, this has been recognised in the Premier League, amongst other leagues, with many clubs drawing up guidelines for their players’ usage of social media. Whilst this goes some way into addressing the matter, Twitter incidents still occur, as shown by Rio Ferdinand’s latest improper conduct charge with his ‘choc ice’ tweet.

Benefits of Twitter in sport

Obviously it is not all doom and gloom for the site and one must consider the value of Twitter for sport. Most simply, the site allows direct contact with top professionals and can be a great form of support for the individual. It can increase interest in a sport or certain event, and allows users to join in the debate during these live events. The Leeds Rhinos Rugby League side have chosen to replace their players’ names with their Twitter user names on the back of their shirts. The idea is to help bridge the communication gap with fans and to promote the sport through social media. The informative element of Twitter must also be noted, keeping fans up to date with sporting news, rumours and general goings-on.

There is no denying the place social media has crafted itself within the sporting world. It would be impossible to remove it from sport and there are clear advantages of involving social media. From the professionals’ perspective, it seems that guidelines need to be built upon by clubs, teams and committees, to help prevent negative tweets from being broadcast. From a fans’ perspective, people need to seriously think before tweeting and not lose their head. Furthermore, Twitter itself must flag up users who continually tweet inappropriate material. Freedom of expression must be maintained but there is clearly a line in many cases which must not be crossed.

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