Should football clubs ban players from social media or warn against the risks of fighting back?

Jack Thomas who was the target of abuse on social media.
Jack Thomas who was the target of abuse on social media.

Back in late 2008, I responded to an advert is this very paper looking for a Stags fan to write a blog for the Chad website.

Silly old me had been keeping a diary about the “adventures” of life in the conference and thought “why not” – I never expected to get the gig.

That opportunity changed everything for me, so I was only too delighted to be asked to start writing a column for this paper again.

Before my column was always about the game just gone and the general goings-on out on the pitch, this time around though I’m going to focus on some of the other areas of football and how they effect our beloved Mansfield Town.

I’d like to start with social media. When I started watching Stags in the early 2000’s Social Media wasn’t as prominent as it is now, after a game we’d have discussions (sometimes heated ones depending on results) on the way home between our group rather than sit in silence typing away on our smartphones.

We were only able to talk about a players performance (good or bad) and refer to them in third-person, meaning quite often our gripes with them would be left in the bin with the standard Saturday night takeaway leftovers.

Now however with Social Media being so accessible, contact with those players is available in milliseconds and all of a sudden a moment of anger, upset, disappointment or however you want to describe it with a player, can blow up into something it doesn’t need to be.

After last weekend’s home defeat to Accrington Stanley, I was disappointed to read from the mid-week news conference notes that midfielder Jack Thomas had been on the wrong end of social media abuse.

It’s happened before and it will happen again – I guess nowadays its part of football, footballers put themselves on twitter because like us, they are human beings who want to know what’s happening in the world, and we in turn follow them because they play for our club and are our heroes.

But why do we feel the need to post personal attacks in the heat of the moment? Quite simply, because we can and our “target” is there to get at.

I’ve been on both sides of this in the past and I can tell you that neither action ends positively.

Aged 18 on the strength of my Stags blog, I was given the opportunity to work in Radio following Stags.

I enjoyed every second and it was a massive eye-opening journey for me, yet as time went on things changed in my personal life and I was starting to have some niggles with what I was doing.

What I should have done was grown up and talk with the people that could help directly,

what I shouldn’t have done was work my way through bottles of alcohol, write an alcohol inspired rant and post it online for the world to see.

As soon as I’d clicked post, the damage was done. I hate myself for that.

Years later, Stags had won promotion to the football league and I’d been offered (an accepted) a paid commentary job covering our rivals.

Opposition supporters naturally didn’t take too kindly to having me cover their team and took to social media to voice their anger.

Naturally those comments found their way directly to me and it’s safe to say they were upsetting, and succeeded in the station having a change of heart. Again the damage was done as, when the first person pressed post, it sparked the avalanche (and a wonderful newspaper article!).

To be fair, footballers themselves are just as guilty – just because someone has a pop at you, doesn’t mean you have to reply, it does add fuel to the fire. Also, back in the Holdsworth era – We’d shipped out Chris Smith to York City after a handful of appearances, rumours of a fallout spread naturally – CAPTAIN at the time Luke Foster confirmed it via his own Facebook profile, subsequently landing him in hot water and not long after, following Smith out of town.

Should football clubs ban players from posting on Social Media before or after a game, or should they use me and Luke Foster as examples of how not to use Social Media and resist the temptation to hit post in the heat of the moment?

It’s an on-going debate about an ugly side of the beautiful game, but to those that do regularly use the safety of their armchair to air their grievances remember that at the other end is just a person with feelings and this, is only just a game.