The English FA has produced a player code of conduct governing what will be deemed to be acceptable behaviour for sporting role models at the highest level.
The code follows in the wake of an increasing number of incidents involving players giving vent to feelings through social media that have rapidly been picked up by media and escalated into major news stories.
In the past week alone Chelsea and England defender Ashley Cole and Irish Olympic Boxer Paddy Barnes have used injudicious language about the FA and the Olympic Council of Ireland respectively.
In some cases such outbursts will positively enhance the ‘rebel’ image of an individual but it generally does little good for governing bodies and management, never mind sponsors who may be caught up by association.
Twitter in particular has become the default news source for many media and opinion forming individuals and it gives greater access than ever before to the inside line on stars that might previously have been protected from intrusion and in some cases from themselves.
This semi official ‘code of conduct’ covers expected standards of behaviour of players and outlines the procedures in the event of a breach. In that sense it is no different from an employee handbook delivered to anyone in paid employment. Massive looking fines though can be immaterial to a high earning sports star and the fact that Cole is still with the England squad this week undermines what impact sanctions have below the level of a ban.
Words spoken and tweeted in haste can be regretted afterwards but are more likely to involve appeals processes than genuine regret.
Irish sport has seen more than its fair share of incidents this year with Rory McIlroy, James Maclean, Barnes and others getting into hot water.
Social media presents great opportunities for engagement by brands via ambassadors but care needs to be taken that a reputation carefully built over years is not damaged in a burst of 140 characters on a mobile phone.
On December 6th our monthly Sport for Business Members’ Round Table event will focus on the opportunities and the dangers of social media for sports governing bodies, teams and commercial partners. If you would like to register interest in attending this you may do so by contacting the Sport for Business team here.