The advent of social media seems to have caught football clubs offside, as most have not yet developed policies to deal with the trend.
Bafana Bafana and Bournemouth striker Tokelo Rantie this week took to Twitter to hit out at South African supporters who choose criticism over encouragement when it comes to the national team.
Rantie has often come under fire from supporters for misses in front of goal. While watching Germany against Georgia on Sunday, Rantie was impressed by how the German fans responded and encouraged the out-of-sorts Marco Reus after he squandered a goal-scoring chance.
Rantie posted on Twitter:
This evoked mixed reactions from South Africa’s supporters, with many telling him where to get off.
Bafana captain Itumeleng Khune took to Twitter to ask what was wrong with players voicing opinions.
Last season, the Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper was hauled before a Premier Soccer League (PSL) disciplinary committee for an outburst on Twitter, which was a first in the local game.
Although the trend is not yet rife domestically, Absa Premiership clubs have warned players to refrain from making controversial remarks in cyberspace.
The PSL and Safa said they did not have a social-media policy in place but were guided by their communication policies. The PSL’s Luxolo September said they were in the process of developing guidelines.
“It’s something we have been working on. However, we do communicate with our staff [on a regular basis] relating to the use of social media. We have also been studying some best practice globally on how organisations [mainly in sport] deal with social media,” said September.
“The reality is that anything you tweet is consumed by thousands of people and it is important for athletes to watch what they say in the public domain. We as the PSL also have rules relating to what can or can’t be said in the public space, not only limited to social media.
“So we need to educate each other about this growing platform of communication and how we can use it to benefit our brand(s).”
Safa spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi said those involved with the association were guided by the broader Safa communication policy.
“When in camp, all players and officials sign the Safa communications policy,” said Chimhavi.
Chiefs said that although their communications policy was under construction, their players were provided with guidelines on specifics such as social-media conduct.
“The policy is broad and covers some aspects that are contained in the player’s contracts – and that’s confidential between the club and the players,” said Chiefs spokesperson Vina Maphosa.
“There have been ongoing issues and offenders have been reprimanded accordingly, but details are confidential. We acknowledge that we are living in a digital age. We monitor that, correct when necessary and similarly punish where the need arises.”
Orlando Pirates administrative manager Floyd Mbele said their social-media policy was contained in the club policy handbook, and players were aware of it.
“There are 11 points under this section. There is generally no problem with players expressing their views, except it must be within the policy guidelines of the social-media policy at the club,” said Mbele.
Bloemfontein Celtic chief executive Khumbulani Konco said they had a manual every player needed to sign.
“They know what they must and must not do, and luckily we have not experienced anything unbecoming.
Players must be wary of what they say, as it can bring the club into disrepute,” said Konco.
“It’s simple. Players agree that they will not make public statements pertaining to the club without the club’s consent. But players have to express their views, as it is part of the game, and they also indirectly assist to promote the game.”