What do you get if you mix footballers and a popular social media site?15th January 2015
Well, sometimes, PR disasters.
The latest footballer to be charged by the FA in relation to comments on Twitter is Stoke City’s Robert Huth who sent a series of tweets as part of a “game” to guess the gender of individuals pictured in explicit images.
Huth is now one of a growing number of footballers to come under FA scrutiny for Twitter posts. Mario Balotelli was banned for one game and given a £25,000 fine for his now infamous posting of Super Mario which was deemed anti-Semitic, and Rio Ferdinand was banned for 3 matches and also fined £25,000 for using the term ‘sket’ on the social media site.
The FA Rules on general behaviour (Rule E3) are both clear and wide in scope with players obligated to act in the best interests of the game, not to act in any manner which is improper or which brings the game into disrepute and to avoid violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.
Huth’s comments are not only alleged to be indecent and/or improper but, unfortunately for the Stoke centre back, are likely to constitute an “Aggravated Breach” because they included a reference to gender and/or gender reassignment.
The usual sanction for a first-time offender committing an Aggravated Breach is a minimum five match ban but, somewhat strangely, this does not apply where the breach is committed in writing only, or via a “communication device”, such as a smartphone. Like most Tweeters, Huth probably engages with his followers via phone and as such, the FA will probably have leeway to impose any (lesser) sanction it considers appropriate.