Irish League footballers have been warned to think twice about what they post on social networking websites.
The Irish Football Association yesterday issued new guidelines relating to what it described as “improper” comments and made clear that any player deemed guilty of inappropriately using online personas would be subject to disciplinary action.
An ever-growing number of local footballing personalities are frequent posters on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, with Coleraine’s Leon Knight last week using his personal account to signal his desire to join Glentoran.
The 28-year-old — who infamously engaged in something of a Twitter war with ex-club Rushden and Diamonds — is no stranger to online controversy but has recently been subject to the sort of personal abuse which the IFA is determined to stamp out.
Yesterday’s statement from Windsor Avenue, however, indicates that disputes between players are not the only thing likely to land an individual in hot water.
As recently as this weekend, for example, players made use of Twitter to agree with former Northern Ireland under-17s manager Kenny Shiels’ view that the IFA’s policy of recruiting English youngsters for the senior international team was to the detriment of homegrown talent.
A number of Carling Premiership stars, one of whom has been capped at international level by current boss Nigel Worthington, spelt out their approval of Shiels’ outburst and, though they are unlikely to be reprimanded for doing so on this occasion, the IFA has made it abundantly clear that players and officials have a duty to bite their tongue — metaphorically or otherwise — in the future.
The new guidelines, which warn against “improper, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting” language come five months after the English FA made a similar move.
In January, Liverpool’s Ryan Babel was hit with a £10,000 fine for comments he made about referee Howard Webb in the aftermath of his side’s defeat to Manchester United.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere also used Twitter to bemoan “inconsistent refereeing” in the Gunners’ 4-4 draw with Manchester United while, in May, Wayne Rooney threatened to put an online taunter “asleep” after challenging him to a meeting.