Premier League clubs monitoring Twitter accounts of players

Three clubs are using service which alerts them to potentially problematic tweets

The power balance in football is changing: clubs are finally gaining the upper hand over their own players on Twitter.

For years, teams have been at the mercy of what their players choose to make public on social media, and have often been embarrassed by their revelations, their criticisms – of referees, colleagues and opponents – their indiscretions and even their spelling. But things have altered and the clubs have a new weapon.

Clearly there has been a lack of  control over the last few years. In the modern age of top-down media management in the Premier League, Twitter is a rare place where communication from players to fans is direct rather than mediated; that is part of the fun. No club can quite prevent players from writing whatever they want and pressing tweet, but what they can do now is keep more on top of problems than they have been in previous years.

This, in part, is because of Social Pundit, and the Player Alert system at the heart of it. Clubs can monitor the tweets of their players or employees, which are run against a database of more than 3,000 words which might be problematic – obscenities, their derivations, slang and misspellings as well as words that might be linked to the discussion of other controversial topics: referees’ names, opposing managers and so on.

When a player writes something which matches this database, it is categorised as red, amber or green depending on how potentially offensive it is and an email is sent to club staff alerting them, as well as saying how much damage has been done by retweets and discussion.

The point, as with speed cameras, is to prevent rather than to catch. Birmingham City, the first team to pilot Social Pundit, saw a drop from 20 to 30 alert emails every week to two or three now, with most of the worst behaviour eradicated. Developed as recently as October last year, the system has already been taken up by three Premier League clubs, five in the Championship and Celtic, charging from £200 to £300 per month for the most basic service.

It was in response to the well-publicised Twitter incident between Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole last year for which Ferdinand was fined £45,000 by the Football Association, that the program was inspired. In reality, though, clubs are only too aware of what England internationals such as Ferdinand, with more than four million followers, and Cole, with more than one million, are saying.

There is more of an issue with young players, fairly low in profile and without too many followers, in the Under-16 or Under-18 team who might be briskly exposed to the first team and the spotlight, and only then have their Twitter account shown to the world. Some concerns are natural but the makers of Social Pundit – an invention by Blueclaw digital agency – insist that they “do not want it to become a Big Brother tool”.

With clubs increasingly keen to use players’ accounts to promote particular campaigns or hashtags, the program monitors which players are the most engaging and well-behaved on Twitter, so as to identify to the clubs who would be their “ideal brand advocates”.

Social Pundit can even – in the same way scouts would assess players’ skills and experience – tell clubs about the Twitter conduct of anyone they are considering signing.

This is a distant world from the football that we are used to – technology has changed and players have moved with it. Only now are the clubs finally catching up.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'