Manchester Utd ban Twitter and Facebook

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First it was Ashley-Paul Robinson, then Darren Bent and most recently Ryan Babel.

It seems that when it comes to the world of Twitter and Facebook, footballers just can’t help themselves.

So with more and more players falling foul of social networking gaffes, Manchester United have decided to take the simple preventative measure of banning their employees from using such sites.

A statement on the Red Devils’ website said: “The club wishes to make it clear that no Manchester United players maintain personal profiles on social networking websites.

“Fans encountering any web pages purporting to be written by United players should treat them with extreme scepticism.”

Indeed it has been reported that the club have recently taken control of Twitter accounts belonging to Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney, while Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Giggs have seen their Facebook pages disappear.

Such a move has been predicted for a while with bookmakers betting on which club would be the first to ban Twitter since last summer.

But are United’s measures draconian in the modern technological age or are they justified?

Many people will remember the furore last year when Bent expressed his desire to leave Tottenham on Twitter – albeit it rather crudely: “Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go Stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around Levy.”

The striker was granted his wish and is now the second highest goalscorer in the Premier League with over 30,000 followers on his Twitter account.

And it is this latter stat that media experts argue shows the positive element of social networking sites.

They allow the average Joe to connect with people that they would otherwise be unable to.

Professional footballers playing at the highest level have never seemed less attainable to the average fan.

Earning more in a week than most people earn annually, players have become almost God-like figures with little for supporters to relate to other than the playing shirt on their backs.

Facebook and Twitter provide the smallest glimpse into a footballer’s life, giving the fans a chance to engage with their idols.

Eb Adeyeri, Digital Director at Lewis PR, said: “A blanket ban such as this will put a brick wall between the two.

“A better policy would be to encourage to make use of sites like Twitter but draw up a series of robust usage guidelines – so, for example, players can’t talk about internal matters or team selection.”

Such guidelines wouldn’t endanger the bond with fans but would ensure events like Babel recently revealing he had been dropped from the Liverpool side to face Stoke with “no explanation” would surely be halted.

But is this just idealistic? Are these sites destined to do players more harm than good?

Yes if you take the example of ex-Crystal Palace youngster Robinson.

In the summer of 2008, the striker famously reported a secret trial planned at Fulham on his Facebook page: “Ashley-Paul is goin fulham on monday. If i pull dis of im on dis ting!!!”

He then followed up his post: “Ashley-Paul Is Travling 2 Bath With Fulham Fingers Crossed. (Im lukin 2 Get Sum Tips Of Jimmy Bullard. He’s ON DIS TING NO HYPE LOL.”

It came as no surprise when Palace duly decided to let the player go and Fulham declined the chance to offer him a contract.

Nearly two years down the line Robinson now finds himself sampling the heady heights of the Ryman League Division One South with Dulwich Hamlet.

Maybe Alex Ferguson has got the right idea.

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