In the short time that Twitter has been in existence it has had a rocky relationship with soccer. Numerous managers and chairmen have had to stand back and watch as their young players abuse this new mouthpiece to the world. Sunderland player James McClean is the most recent footballer to have closed his account after he professed his love for a controversial Irish rebel song. No surprises also that Joey Barton is regularly using his 140 characters to spout forth his world view, such as calling Tiago Silver a ‘ladyboy’. How poetic.
But it seems that it is not just red-blooded twentysomething footballers who are taking novel approaches to Twitter. Professional football clubs are also getting in on the action. Call me a grumpy old man if you want, but I’m failing to see the humour in the new approach to social media being adopted by the Vancouver Whitecaps this season. Exhibit one was the goading of the Houston Dynamos in the run up to the recent game between the two. A video posted on the Whitecaps Twitter feed showed Darren Mattocks liquidating some oranges using the ‘Orange Obliteration System’ borrowed from a similar stunt undertaken by FC Dallas the previous week. What is the point? Do the players care? I doubt it. Is it funny? Well, the jury is still out on that one. The fans? There are better ways to build excitement for a game without having to resort to childish goading.
Exhibit two was also in the run up to the game against Houston. The official Whitecaps Twitter feed declared ‘great news’ in relation to the announcement that Dynamos forward Brad Davis had been called up to the US men’s national team and would therefore miss the game against the ‘Caps. Of course it was great news for Vancouver, but for the club to officially announce this I thought was in poor taste. Here the boundary between fan and official sports franchise seems very blurred. I don’t remember the Paris Saint-Germain official Twitter feed revelling in their delight that Messi was injured for their recent Champions League quarter final with Barcelona. Good job they didn’t either because he came of the bench and changed the game!
But it was a tweet a few days ago that made me wince the most. The Whitecaps official account had just been followed by a fake Frank Lampard account so they took the opportunity to show a picture of this with the quote ‘let the rumours begin’. Since when did the communications department of the ‘Caps turn in to a tabloid newspaper spreading transfer rumours? Ignoring the fact it was a fake account and will never likely happen, it again smacks of unprofessionalism. Twitter is the source of some excellent sports banter between fans, but not from the official club in my view. Perhaps the MLS dictated from above this new approach, and if they have then it is not the ‘Caps' fault. But if there is a new strategy to engage in goading and rumour-mongering then it lessens the organization in my mind. When Paul Barber joined a few years back as CEO he stated that the aim was to make Vancouver Whitecaps FC one of the top 25 soccer organizations in the world. Whether this is achievable or not is another matter, but you can bet that none of the other 24 (or 124 for that matter) would go anywhere near the Orange Obliteration System.