'There is a striking clause in my Premier League contract...'


Nov 23, 2009
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'There is a striking clause in my Premier League contract...'

Unique and every week, the Secret Footballer writes from inside the game. This week: how players, through Twitter, have brought back a sense of connection with the fans

There is a very obvious and striking clause in my Premier League contract, one that in the past few months I have taken more and more notice of – not least because of the advent of this column in the Guardian and the subsequent social media commitments such a thing entails.

For those who have better things to do than sift through the Premier League's 20-odd pages of dos and don'ts, it could be argued that up to now this particular point went without saying. A refresher is always handy though:

[The Player agrees that he will not] knowingly do, write or say anything or omit to do anything which is likely to bring the club or the game of football into disrepute, cause the player or the club to be in breach of the rules or cause damage to the club or its officers or employees or any match official. Wherever circumstances permit the player shall give to the club reasonable notice of his intention to make any contributions to the public media in order to allow representations to be made to him on behalf of the Club if it so desires.

In short – don't say the wrong thing and you won't find any of your wages missing at the end of the month. But maybe if the Premier League kept the length of the clauses to 140 characters we wouldn't have so many players paying the fines that keep the lights on at the Football Association.

This week Twitter has already brought Steven Pienaar, Darren Bent and Ryan Babel to our attention thanks to a transfer, a huge transfer and a joke that went wrong, or right, depending on where you sit. It stands to reason, though, that if something has become public then it was clearly going on already in private.

Within most squads there are now two schools: those who feel they ought to have an iPhone and those who prefer the style and layout of a Blackberry. The two are easily defined by match-day etiquette – the ones who are more image conscious generally arrive at the players' entrance with hair made up, shoes sparkling, iPhone firmly fixed to their ear and designer wash bag under arm. Interestingly, most defenders seem to fall into the Blackberry category. But in this instance both devices perform the same task.

Within either group is a player whose sole purpose is to set the cat among the pigeons. This player usually starts the conversation off with a controversial statement that then leads to all sorts of opinion, fact and debate, and generally ends in abuse. The software that connects us all together is called Instant Messaging. It's nothing new but on the other hand it's not in the public domain. You thought Twitter was bad? Believe me, the group chats among players are ruthless. No one is safe – players, fans, coaches, managers, governing bodies and even club chairmen and other players' wives are not off limits.

On the whole most of it is extremely sharp and quick-witted. Some of it, of course, is outrageous, and I can't help wondering what might happen to one or two players should their phone ever fall into enemy hands. I'm fairly certain the ramifications would be felt beyond the FA – forget about keeping the lights on, the fine would be so big it could pay for a successful World Cup bid.

For me, the problem isn't the players (shock). After all, it's the players, through Twitter and such like, who have brought back the sense of connection between footballers and fans that for so long was held up by journalists as an example of the "you and them" scenario that developed when money began to flood into the game and, in turn, players' wages increased out of all proportion with the man in the street.

This connection, albeit through the internet, is hugely important and because of it we must not allow social networking to become a dirty phrase. For this generation, Twitter and Facebook offer a wonderful opportunity to follow almost any player you like and interact with them.

Clearly, many players are very proactive when it comes to engaging in this form of communication. You couldn't quite say the same for the people at the FA handing out the fines.

There is no mention of "social networking" in the contract and it's been around for a while now. Are the same FA people even aware of the fantastic capabilities of social networking and how it can bring everyone together for the common good? And if there is no direct mention of social networking, how can they work out how much to fine us when it is abused?

What I'm saying is how can a generation that does not understand social networking set the precedent for the generation that absolutely does? The FA will keep handing out its arbitrary fines but, rest assured, they'll never even see the best stuff.

By The Secret Football for The Guardian
Guardian Online
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BUMP. With recent twitter outbursts including Jack Wilshere, Wolciech Szczesny and Ryan Babel, thought this would be relevant...

EDIT: Mike, if you see this, can you rename the thread..
Regarding Wojciech, his comments should be looked at.
Why? For an excellent use of sarcasm?

Love following the Arsenal lads on Twitter.

No, if Babel's comments were looked at, then so should his.

I would say the same about any player.
No, if Babel's comments were looked at, then so should his.

I would say the same about any player.
He hasn't accused the ref of anything.
He can't be in trouble for saying 'I though he was brilliant'. It could only be based on the assumption he is being sarcastic. Nothing would ever come of it.

Babel posted a picture of a ref wearing a United shirt, completely different.