FA spells out Twitter and video game rules for England players
The Football Association has issued a new, wide-ranging code of conduct, that covers everything from what players can say on Twitter, how long they are permitted to play video games and whether they can order room service at team hotels, which will be given to every footballer called up for the national team.
After three tumultuous years in the life of the England team, the code, already in the possession of every member of Roy Hodgson's current squad, reminds players that representing England "is an honour" and they are to avoid anything that could "have an effect on the reputation and integrity of the England team".
The code establishes that the FA can remove the captaincy from a player "in the event that their conduct does not meet standards required". The England captaincy, the code says, is "a privileged position which carries with it additional expectations and responsibilities on and off the field". The captain is "expected to be a role model to the rest of the squad".
Having taken the captaincy away from John Terry twice in difficult circumstances in the last 20 months, the FA hopes that players now know where they stand in terms of behaviour and the likely sanctions if they offend. The senior men's team were given a presentation on the code last Monday and it will be handed to all junior teams, men and women, and disability sides over the next few weeks.
The section on standards of conduct forbids "violence, abuse and discrimination (of all kinds)" and "use of drugs without the doctor's permission". Less obvious offences include ordering room service in team hotels, which players are forbidden from doing. Computer and video games can be played "for a sensible amount of time" and use of mobile phones in the "meal-room, dressing room and on the team bus is at the discretion of the head coach".
Players are required to be respectful of the "culture and traditions" of the countries they visit on international duty and to "respect hotel staff at all times". They are counselled not to react to "verbal provocation from the press or fans" – "however hard it is" – and to wear England branded clothes at all times, "apart from footwear", unless given permission otherwise.
Players are forbidden to criticise team-mates, team staff, referees or officials on Twitter and Facebook. There is also to be no use of Twitter on the day before a game or match day itself. However, tweets such as the one by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain yesterday afternoon disclosing he was about to have a pre-match nap are not in breach of the code.
They are banned from disclosing "team tactics or selection" to anyone outside the circle of the squad. There is to be no betting on matches. They are also encouraged to share the burden of interviews with the media, an interesting development given some players' reluctance to do so.
The practice of going through "mixed zones", to which reporters have access, is stipulated in the code and players are to be encouraged to remove headphones when doing so – a tactic occasionally employed to avoid hearing interview requests. The code also requires players to acknowledge supporters at the end of the game.
There are to be no "exclusive media columns or blogs" and no drugs or alcohol, although the latter may be consumed with the permission of the manager. Players are requested to be on time. They are also reminded to "be aware that texts, picture messages and BBM messages can become public".
The 16-page booklet has been in formulation since January and includes a detailed diagram outlining the management structure of "Club England", the group created within the FA to handle the representative teams. The players do not sign a contract, although they sign on receipt of the code and the FA will keep a record of all those who have been given a copy.
The inside front cover proclaims: "Players representing England are ambassadors for their country and role models for younger players. The highest standards of conduct and behaviour are therefore expected at all times, including when players are not on international duty."
In the sanctions section of the code, the Club England board, which includes chairman David Bernstein and Sir Trevor Brooking, the director of football development, reserves the right to impose a wide range of punishments at their own discretion. It also establishes that any decision is final and that there is no right of appeal.
On allegations of "serious misconduct", the code says that the FA can suspend a player from international duty while the investigation takes place. For example, this would have given it the right to suspend Terry from playing for England while he was awaiting his July court case on racial abuse charges, of which he was acquitted.
The code warns that serious misconduct would include "theft, dishonesty, fraud, deliberate falsification of records" and "assault, battery, violence, deliberate damage to or misuse of FA property". The "deliberate misuse of confidential information" also falls under that category. The FA hopes the tone of the code will remind players that representing their country is a privilege rather than a right. The FA hopes the code will avoid episodes such as the one which led to Fabio Capello's departure in February and Terry's subsequent retirement.
The don'ts and the dos
Use drugs without doctor's permission
Disclose confidential information about any aspect of playing for England
Wear unofficial sportswear from personal endorsements
Consume alcohol without the express permission of the manager
Use drugs or banned substances
Use room service
Bet on any football matches
Criticise people on Twitter or Facebook
Respect opponents, officials and supporters
Respect culture and traditions of host nations
Acknowledge the supporters at the end of the game and when on the coach travelling to training and games
Respect drug-testing officers
Respect hotel staff
Be on time for team meetings.
Use a sensible amount of time playing video or computer games.