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Twitter and the Transfer Window

The transfer window, the three month period where a football team has the opportunity to add to, take away from or even slightly develop their squad, be that through the removal of the so called ‘dead wood’ or the arrival of a megastar on a multi million pound contract in order to just propel said club into a title winning position.

The transfer saga involving Thiago Alcantara and the way it appeared to change so quickly resulted in many troll like responses to Football Writers.

The transfer saga involving Thiago Alcantara and the way it appeared to change so quickly resulted in many troll like responses to Football Writers.

The transfer window was once a place of rather secretive dealings, almost like the Speakeasies of prohibition filled 1920’s America with nobody quite knowing who was going to be sold where or who was unhappy at a club aside from the parties directly involved, i.e. the two clubs and the player himself. Nowadays we are in a time when we as a society find ourselves enslaved to social media, I make no bones about the fact I too fall into this category and to a certain degree there is little wrong with this, moving forward and keeping up with the times is a necessity if one desires to progress. However one common, widespread gripe with social media is the sense of freedom in creates within the everyday human being.

Since the introduction of Twitter we have seen an emotive new term created by the media to categorise those who perceive a sense of freedom within social media and then abuse said freedom, this term is the ‘Twitter Troll.’ A Twitter Troll is no different to the definition of an actual mythical troll, something which seeks to harass or disturb only via the new technology involved in social media and with Twitter in particular, they can harass or disturb on a very public platform.

Just, for example, take the events of last summer, Tom Daley had just missed out on an Olympic medal in the Synchronised men’s 10m diving event and immediately received a Tweet from an individual who I probably cannot name  suggesting that Daley had let his deceased father down by not winning a medal. Now this is not somebody who knows Tom Daley personally, this is not somebody whom Daley has ever come into contact with, no it is an individual sat behind a computer, tablet or mobile phone screen on the other side of the country who is seeking to bring attention to themselves by harassing an individual who is well within the scope of the public eye, simply because they can.

This moves me onto my next point, the as ever useful ‘Urban Dictionary’ has a definition of their own for the term/act of ‘Trolling’ and it is one that describes the crux of the problem with freedom on social media in under ten words, Being a prick on the internet because you can.” Just look at those last three words for a moment, people gain some sort of self justification for their actions simply because there is no means in place to either prohibit them from doing so or punishing them after. Yes methods have been brought in over the past two years to counteract the ‘Trolling’ of celebrities and public figures on Twitter with several high profile cases, including the aforementioned Tom Daley incident leading to an arrest. However it is still going on.

Just last week we have seen a high profile incident of Twitter trolling which specifically targeted women. Female MP Stella Creasy and Female Historian Mary Beard were threatened with rape due to their public backing of a campaign headed by Caroline Criado-Perez which lobbied for banknotes to feature the faces of women and not just men. This is an individual sending a threat of one of the most violent and life damaging acts that can happen to anyone just because they have the freedom to do so, and what did it lead to? Yet an ever fiercer battle held within Twitter with certain users of the social media website taking part in a twenty four hour boycott of the social media site entitled ‘Twitter Silence’ to essentially make a stand against such public and abusive ‘trolling.’ This was then met by a backlash from individuals who felt it was ‘shirking’ the problem or a pointless act to gain attention, yet again the troll had got what it wanted, attention and on a sizeable scale.

Now, after reading the title of this piece you are probably wondering what on earth all of the above and the serious nature of those examples have to do with the transfer window, well I will attempt to clarify that now. With the freedom that has come with having your own social media profile on Twitter or Facebook there is also a degree of entitlement that comes with it, to the end which people think they are owed information by certain individuals who also share Twitter space. Football is known to be one of the most tribal sports with every match being a direct battle between two sides so to speak, you are either with one side or you are against one side. This tribalism mixed with a sort of freedom of speech if you will that is provided by social media creates a rather newfound drama surrounding the Transfer window.

Football writers have, as the media has grown in importance to football, long been fed snippets of information by clubs during the transfer window and this information was relayed to the public via a newspaper article or interview. As social media has developed however these snippets of information have become much more readily available to the public via the single touch of a button and this allows supporters to be constantly kept in the loop and updated as events occur.

We see it every summer, a transfer saga involving usually one of England’s bigger clubs as in my experience supporters of non English teams tend not to get too involved in transfer tittle tattle on Twitter, however these sagas are usually started by a report in a newspaper which is probably based on a reliable tip they have received, however what happens now and what didn’t before Twitter is these reports are almost instantly passed on and twisted by people, almost like a much wider scale game of Chinese whispers and before you know it football writers find their personal Twitter feeds inundated with questions like ‘Is Thiago going to sign for United?’, ‘How close is Isco to Manchester City?’ and my own personal favourite ‘Why did Sir Alex Ferguson lie about Wayne Rooney’s transfer request?’

The majority of football writers to their credit attempt to answer these questions, some feel it is part of their job whilst others enjoy dispersing the information they have at their disposal.  This information is then lapped up by supporters and is yet again passed on and twisted  before the transfer saga eventually comes to an end with a different outcome to the one stated by a particular football writer. The aforementioned football writer then finds his Twitter feed littered with abuse and personal attacks which I find completely unnecessarily and in as serious and pitiful a way as possible, rather laughable.

The supporters who target football writers with abuse when a transfer deal doesn’t go the way they want it to are those who yet again act by the unwritten rule I previously alluded to in those three words, ‘Because you can.’ They feel the freedom given to them by social media websites propels them to a state of entitlement to information, they feel as though they are entitled to be given information on transfers by football writers when it actual fact they aren’t and never have been before.

Transfer negotiations are no business of anybody but the two clubs involved, the player and unfortunately in the modern game, the player’s agent. It wasn’t so long ago that supporters knew nothing of transfers until a player was picture on the back page of their local paper holding up the club’s new shirt, everything before the internet and particularly high speed broadband took off was much more secretive and whilst many yearn to return to this era you can’t, you have to move forward with the times.

The advancement in media coverage of football has been excellent for supporters, we can now be kept abreast of rumours involving our club’s negotiations as they are happening and the introduction of Twitter has opened up even more positive avenues for both news reporting and discussion. You ask most football writers and they will tell you the discussions they have with fans on Twitter are on the whole something they enjoy and welcome, it is this link between the media and the supporters that in a way brings the supporters closer to the club which is what we have always wanted, however it is something which must not be taken for granted by supporters and must not lead to a feeling of entitlement which eventually leads to trolling simply because you have the free platform upon which to do so.

Technology is going to keep advancing, we are going to be given even more information about transfers as the years go on and that is excellent but don’t let that ‘power’ lead to feelings of entitlement, just embrace it, trust you own judgement on how to differentiate fact from fiction in transfer stories, don’t target football writers who are attempting to do their job and you will end up enjoying the transfer window a whole host more. The less of a whirlwind created by people’s reactions to transfers then the less falsities will be put out by people, no reaction means no attention and no attention means for the troll no reason to do it.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

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