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May 19, 2011

PFA to warn players over social media

The Professional Footballers' Association are to warn players they need to be ''vigilant'' about their use of social networking sites after a number of high profile issues.

The PFA have become increasingly concerned at the amount of abuse aimed at their members and plan to put the matter near the top of their agenda in the summer.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was the latest high-profile player to come under attack. He had a heated exchanged on Twitter during which he wrote to a follower ''I'll put u asleep within 10 seconds'' after being provoked. Rooney said later it was nothing more than banter.

Ryan Babel and Carlton Cole have also picked up fines for their comments on the social networking site and Bobby Barnes, deputy chief executive of the PFA, believes the situation in general must be addressed.

''We speak to the players before the beginning of the season regarding rule changes and certain things they need to be on the ball about, whether it be anti-doping or the Respect campaign,'' he said. ''Very much on our agenda for the beginning of next season is how best we would advise them on how to use all social media. You do have to be vigilant when you are in the public eye.

''They really need to be aware this is a medium that is not intimate, a message you are sending between friends. It does have a potential audience, particularly if you are a Premier League player, of hundreds of thousands of people.

''The question the players should ask themselves is would they be so open either if they were being interviewed or actually speaking in a public place. Young players especially embrace this technology and there is potential to be quite indiscreet, say team selection for example.''

Many Premier League players have accounts on Twitter, including Arsenal's captain Cesc Fabregas, striker Robin van Persie and their England midfielder Jack Wilshere. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels such media can be good for relations, provided they are not abused.

''At the moment we allow it. We are thinking about how to use it the best way,'' the Frenchman said. ''It can be very positive because it can be a good communication for the players with the fans which doesn't exist anymore.

''It can as well have negative repercussions for the clubs if it is not well used so we are thinking about it. We will see what kind of direction we will go.''

Barnes claims it would be ''a real shame'' if players were hounded off sites.

He said: ''The sad thing about it is for so long players have been accused of being out of touch with fans. Then you have someone like Wayne Rooney who is actually making a conscious effort to engage with the fans.

''It would be a real shame if players were driven off these sites on the basis of saying it is just not worth it. It is not just footballers, once you are out there, you are not always going to get people responding to you in a positive way. It is something we are very aware off.''

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