In an increasing trend in British football, players are being reprimanded by the press and FA alike for historical activity on social media. In the most recent cases, the dubious online activity of a player has come to light only when they have made the news headlines for another reason – be it Shane Duffy dating Katie Price or Andre Gray’s first premier league goal – but has had a direct effect on their football career.
Despite the player often representing a different club at the time of the faux-pas, it is the player’s current club who are punished as the player is banned by the FA and faces humiliation in the press. This may seem unfair, but an employer who does not properly vet their staff’s online footprint is leaving itself exposed to these kinds of scenarios.
The issues are not always external either, as Joey Barton and Ryan Christie have shown; both players tweeted offensive comments about specific clubs, bringing embarrassment and anger from the clubs’ own supporters when they later signed the players. An online footprint check could have highlighted and removed these tweets before the signings were made public and saved the clubs from an unnecessary PR headache.
The new generation of footballers are the first to have been active on social media from youth, so it will be no surprise if the trend of exposés continues to grow. Football clubs should realise that reaction to cases such as these is not enough, and proactive vetting of online footprints can prevent unnecessary publicity and FA sanctions.