The Elite League announced this week that is has implemented a social media policy for all players, team staff and officials, including referees and linesmen.
“The policy has been written to help all users connect better with their audience, while understanding the dangers social media can bring and the responsibilities they have when posting,” said the media release.
Well, that sounds great, but it went on: “There will be a blackout period imposed on game day. This begins two hours before face-off and runs until an hour after the game.”
We wrote about sports bosses’ fear of social media a couple of years ago. Since then, use of Twitter in particular has boomed, and we hoped that with familiarity the fear might have diminished, and that organisations would now have a more mature attitude, along the lines favoured in that 2010 post.
Sadly, no. And the Rapid Solicitors Elite League (yes, it’s sponsored by a law firm, so we assume they’ve taken legal advice about restricting people’s freedom of speech) is not alone. The social media blackout mimics a rule introduced by the National Hockey League in North America last season.
We fear such a restriction could be hurt a small, fragile league, which depends on a limited fanbase, now accustomed to hearing players’ real thoughts, fresh from the ice. Small leagues need to embrace social media at every opportunity, as our post on the Canadian Football League (a much bigger organisation than the Elite League) argued.
We’re told the full policy runs to four pages and was produced after sounding out numerous people in the summer. The idea is to ensure players have calmed down before Tweeting in anger, but we would have preferred to see more positive action including a programme of social media education for players and officials.
The game-day ban does not include official League and club-run accounts, which are burgeoning. We looked at clubs’ use of social media in a survey last summer, and will soon be publishing our 2012 results – which show massive growth in numbers.
“We do not wish for players, staff and officials to stop using social media, but we want to make clear what is and what is not acceptable,” said a spokesman in the release.
That’s fine, but education would achieve that – a blackout won’t.
Looking for social media or other communications guidance or support for your sports organisation or business? Maybe we can help.