Man United shuts down Twitter and Facebook accounts for its footballers

Manchester United posted an announcement on its website Friday that said that none of its players maintain personal profiles on social networking sites.

“The club wishes to make it clear that no Manchester United players maintain personal profiles on social networking websites,” said the note posted on ManUtd.com. “Fans encountering any web pages purporting to be written by United players should treat them with extreme scepticism. Any official news relating to Manchester United or its players will be communicated via ManUtd.com.”

However what the announcement failed to mention is that several Manchester United footballers used to have accounts on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook accounts, but they have either been shut down or the contents on those pages have been removed presumably under the orders of Manchester United FC.

Our research reveals that Twitter accounts have been removed for Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher, while Facebook accounts have been removed for Wes Brown. Meanwhile, the contents of the Facebook wall for the following footballers have been erased: Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand. Pictured above is the wall of Ryan Giggs’s page on Facebook showing that the contents have been removed.

We can imagine why Manchester United would want to prevent its footballers from frequenting social networking sites. One, it’s a potential public relations disaster especially if a player says something controversial or releases information before it’s been approved by a club’s communications or PR department. Two, it encourages football supporters to find information about their favorite players outside of the official club website. Fewer visits to the official club website results in fewer opportunities to generate revenue by selling merchandise or website memberships. Three, and perhaps it’s the most important reason of all, it’s an issue of control. Professional footballers are under the control of the club almost at all times in terms of what they say, which members of the press they can talk to (if any) and what curfews they’re under. But social networking systems threaten the status quo because its professional footballers having personal contact with fans, the media and others, which could be terrifying for some football clubs.

While Manchester United is tightening the screws on which sites its players can frequent, Sunderland continues to allow striker Darren Bent to use Twitter and he’s definitely building a cult following (29,000 followers as of press time). Reading Bent’s tweets is refreshing and gives you a better appreciation of the footballer. Bent has embraced Twitter to such an extent that he even has football boots with his Twitter handle and Twitter logo printed on them.

In this world where professional footballers are so distanced from its fans, it’s a pleasure to see Darren Bent and other footballers using Twitter while clubs such as Manchester United (who don’t even have an official Twitter account for the club) are living in the stone age.

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