Social Media Guidance

The use of social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc., is still a relatively new phenomenon. Its benefits are still being learned but so are its drawbacks.

Following a number of extremely serious cases that have arisen recently in other County FAs, it is appropriate to ask readers to be extremely mindful of how they use social networking media. No matter how secure privacy settings may be on a user's own site, it is impossible to control the identity of friends of friends, who may be able to access the user's page and see his/her comments.

In order to protect themselves and their own integrity, referees are strongly advised that under no circumstances should they comment on social networking sites on disciplinary action taken in games on which they have officiated, naming individual clubs or players. Nor should referees discuss on such sites anything that could possibly be used to question their impartiality or integrity, such as expressing opinions about the general attitudes and behaviour of clubs or of individual players. The same principles apply to expressing views on such sites about specific competitions, County FAs and, indeed, the FA.

Recently our colleagues at London FA has had to investigate a complaint about such comments made by a referee and has issued him with appropriate advice. Other County FAs have taken disciplinary action against referees in grassroots football, imposing hefty suspensions, following more serious cases. In the same way, disciplinary action against clubs and players is becoming much more frequent both at national level and at County FA level in respect of messages on social networking sites. Any referees who aspire to progress to higher levels of football should also remember that what they say on these sites might well be stored on the internet long after they have stopped using the sites themselves: comments about higher levels of football (or about the clubs and players competing in it) can come back to haunt an official in years to come and might have a negative impact on his/her career progression.

So please think before you comment on a social network site: make sure that you always protect your own image and that of the refereeing family in general.

Adapted from an article prepared by the London FA.

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