Can we still call footballers’ twitter accounts “social” media?

Can we still call footballers’ twitter accounts “social” media?

Can we still call footballers’ twitter accounts “social” media?

Dean Santangelo


The times of receiving interesting insights into a footballer’s life through social media have past. The media plays an ever-larger role in the player’s career, the club, and private wellbeing so anything said on social media is taken very seriously... So seriously that clubs are even hiring media relations managers or players hire them themselves.


So, what is a so-called “media relations manager”? Those working at football clubs, are responsible for writing internal announcements and press releases as well as to review, edit, and proof read communications materials. They also manage media relations projects associated with the corporate communications strategy with the interest to protect and enhance the clubs image. They are in close contact with the players as well as journalists and media organisations. They represent a new area in social media.


In the past, players were able to communicate directly to journalists without a barrier (media relations managers- seen in the model above). Recently, media relations managers have come under scrutiny as they seem to be taking the “social” out of social media for footballers and their subscribers. Victor Anichebe who plays for Sunderland FC provided us with proof of that. One day after Sunderland’s defeat to West Ham, Anichebe tweeted the following:


Can you tweet something like
Unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take! But we go again!” – Twitter @VictorAnichebe


Anichebe copied and pasted the whole text that he had received from a third party (likely his media relations manager) instead of just the second half. He was quick to delete his tweet realizing what he had done. It shows how much influence media relations managers have on footballers’ tweets. I am not saying that every footballer’s twitter account is run like this but if a player from Sunderland FC (currently in 19th place) has got a media relations manager, then imagine all the players that have got them from larger clubs! The media noise around these clubs is even greater and the influence each player has on the image of the club is greater too. There is no reason to believe that players from these clubs haven’t got media relations managers.


Footballers’ tweets have turned into another public relations exercise by clubs. The tweets seen today are far less interesting and barely worth taking time to read. The tweets can be called “safe” as this is what the media relations managers aim for; not controversial or derogatory.


The Anichebe incident has caused twitter users to not believe footballers’ tweets anymore. Twitter users follow players for real interaction. If the player isn’t the one tweeting, then why should they bother to follow him? There is no social interaction between the player and his fans. Once the receivers realize this, it can lead to a decrease in interest towards the football club. I am eagerly waiting to see what will happen to media relations managers in the future. Will clubs let go and give the authority back to the players so that they can interact with fans in a more personal way? Is it the club saying that a player must have a media manager? This would bring the club closer to the fans and raise the interest again. Or will the clubs remain as they are with the priority to protect their overall image by monitoring their players’ (employees’) social media messages instead of promoting personal interaction with the fans? Honestly, it would be nice to have the “social” part back.