Bunch Of Tweets
Journalist Henry Winter got it spot on when describing how the antics of John Terry and Ashley Cole should have brought huge embarrassment to Chelsea Football Club. Terry’s own long list of indiscretions needs no further column space; nor too, you could argue, does that of Ashley Cole.
Cole’s tweet on Friday, where he spoke in the vernacular of the peasantry towards the domestic game’s governing body, provoked discussion of a wider nature. Twitter is a fairly new phenomenon and as such it presents difficulties for the FA in how they go about monitoring players’ behaviour on social networking.
Ryan Babel, then of Liverpool, became the first player to be punished by the FA when he was critical of Howard Webb’s decisions in an FA Cup game against Manchester United in January 2011. Chairman of the regulatory commission, Roger Burden, said at the time, “Social network sites, like Twitter, must be regarded as being in the public domain. All participants need to be aware, in the same way as if making a public statement in other forms of media, that any comments would be transmitted to a wider audience. It is their responsibility to ensure only appropriate comments are used.” Babel was fined £10,000.
As recently as August, Rio Ferdinand was fined £45,000 for responding to a user who had described Ashley Cole as a “choc ice”; Ferdinand’s inclusion of the term in a reply was deemed improper by the commission and the former England defender was warned as to his former conduct. His United team-mate, Federico Macheda, was fined £15,000 for an alleged homophobic tweet in March.
The increased profile of a player – or indeed, any individual – should not dictate how much they incorporate common sense into what comments they are making public. However, with the FA clearly prepared to hand out financial punishment for comments they deem inappropriate, one has to wonder what was on Cole’s mind when he decided to vent his frustrations on Friday.
According to the left back, it was an instant reaction to a sports news channel’s condensed report of the John Terry FA verdict. His apology and delete of the tweet later on showed some regret. Though Cole doesn’t seem the type of individual to repent, this must be taken on face value – if the FA are to be consistent, he should expect a fine of somewhere around the £10,000 mark, but the consequences could be even greater.
Lest we forget, Cole is closing in on his 100th England cap; arguably the nation’s best ever player in that position, it remains for the FA and Roy Hodgson to come to some decision over the future of his selection for the national side. Is the need of England greater than the principle? There can be little doubt that Cole’s sense of entitlement extends to his position in the national side, and though his talent is not in question, is his really the kind of character that Hodgson needs going forward?
A fine of £10,000 – or, let’s be frank, anywhere up to that which Rio Ferdinand received – is hardly likely to send Cole “swerving off the road”, and the slap on the wrist will mean nothing to a player with as thick skin as Cole has – to Cole, and perhaps to many looking, Cole’s message was loud and clear and any sanction that does not result in a temporary or permanent suspension from international duty will send out a message that conflicts with the idealistic mantra that it’s supposed to be the proudest moment of a professional player to pull on the shirt of his country.
There is little doubt that the FA’s decision over Cole will be scrutinized by supporters, keen to criticize the inconsistency depending on their tribal loyalty; scrutinized too, by the media, who will continue to ask if the governing body are just making it up as they go along. Rio Ferdinand’s perceived dip in form gave Hodgson an excuse to leave out the United defender (though the “footballing reasons” was met with guffaws by most rational observers) and John Terry made Hodgson’s life a lot easier by taking the decision into his own hands. You can’t help but think somewhere, the England manager is hoping that Cole reacts in trademark belligerent fashion to punishment from the FA so that he can avoid making the decision again. Really, that shouldn’t be the case – in the moments after Cole took to the world wide web to cast his thoughts on the FA, he should have been receiving a phone call to thank him for his service but he would no longer be required for England.
It’s fair to say that the FA should not be dragging their knuckles when it comes to social networking; there should be a clear policy in place.
They will be criticized by someone no matter what they decide and perhaps rightly so; but it should not be forgotten that without the immature, spoilt, and ill-considered reactions by players with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, it wouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.by: Wayne Barton, October 8, 2012