What is The Best Way For Referees to Use Social Media?

What is The Best Way For Referees to Use Social Media?

According to Statista’s 2020 report, the overall share of households in the United Kingdom (UK) that had access to the internet was 97 percent. This constituted an increase of one percent in comparison to the previous year and an increase of 17 percent over the last 10 years. The UK was home to 53 million active social media users as of January 2021. That translated to a social media penetration rate of 77.9 percent of the population of the UK. You may be thinking this number is relatively low in comparison the overall population? However just sitting at a desk or searching your laptop is not the only way in which social media and networks are accessed. How are you reading this right now?

The same 2020 statistics show that staggeringly there were approximately 79.01 million mobile cellular subscriptions registered in the country. Of these, 94% of adults have reported using their phone in some way to access social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others. With this vast amount of people (in the UK alone) able to have fingertip connections to the world around them, it is no wonder the way in which social networking has taken over many lives.

In today’s culture of “liking” this or “hash-tagging” that, it has become extremely easy for comments to be seen globally at the touch of a button. Often these comments are not fully thought out and can have severe consequences. There are several examples of people using this type of media for publicity and gaining the rewards from it. I myself am no cynic to the use of social media; in fact I use numerous different networks to connect with friends, family and colleagues daily. From this I have been able to keep up-to-date with all my sporting “likes”, “follows” and “connections” with minute by minute detail.

However, should you really be able to instantly see what my favourite footballer had for their lunch? Or even watch videos of them driving their new supercar? Most people have varying views on this and the way in which professional sports people, in particular (as well as other celebrity figures), use social media.

Can top level referees being on twitter take away the mystery of elite sport, or does it just make it more realistic and attainable for the average Joe?

Some of the most “followed” people on Twitter are in fact athletes; Cristiano Ronaldo has over 98 million people viewing every Tweet he sends, for example. Some of these are almost certainly children and other people who see the Manchester United superstar as a godlike figure. With this idealisation that many sportspeople have, it has become imperative that messages or comments (that can be seen by the world) are thoughtful and most importantly, thought about.

Now it has become the norm to browse through networks to see how the world is communicating and what people are talking about. Only recently has social media taken over people’s lives. Psychologists are commenting on how more and more people are becoming reclusive but find it easier to communicate through a screen than in person.

How Does This Affect Referees?

Surely with the rise in people becoming glued to their social media platforms it will result in an reduction of physical activity levels? This is extremely farfetched, you may not believe it, but it was once thought that the world was flat. This however is another topic.

What affect would overuse or rather, improper use of social networks have on the workings of groups of referees? The list of officials on social media is too long to list but no doubt many people are aware of several. Some people like to antagonise professional referees with the use of this style of media, but when they finally reply with any thoughts it can be their careers on the line. Comments on different scales can have effects on not only the referee themselves but potentially their colleagues too.

The Football Association have installed protocols that deal with players offending or commenting out of the terms of being a professional footballer. There is a long list of players who have received large fines over comments on social media. Examples of this include Carlton Coles 2011 tweet about “getting into Wembley” which cost the striker £20,000 in fines due to a racism allegation. Another of which was when Rio Ferdinand made, what was stated as, a racist remark which cost him £40,000.

When former referees are seen in the media to be making comments, it can have a negative effect on the performance of the current crop. Fans can change opinions on an official when subjected to other media influences. In turn, being an open network, they could vent to the referee themselves or their colleagues through social media.

Psychologically the use of social media has pros and cons for our elite officials who use it. Self-esteem can directly be affected, both positively and negatively. When referees have low self-esteem they can often struggle to think things will get better. Or perhaps struggle to perform effectively in their sport which in turn could lead to being dropped and ultimately out of their job. Although this is a downward spiral, it cannot purely be put down to socials; accounts can be deleted after all. However there are some people who argue that the age of the official needs to be considered.

In the United States, some colleges have issued top-end sports stars with social media bans. This is so the athletes have no other external pressures and they cannot divulge information about the team, such is the level of collegiate sport.

As well as self-esteem referees could have increased motivation potentially, to prove others wrong. They can also gain information and improve their knowledge through the use of social media. These effects can be constructive or damaging for the official and stem from social interactions with others.

Ultimately it is up to the referee and them alone to decide whether they can handle the pressures and consequences of being involved with global social media. It should also be down to others to treat officials as human beings. Sometimes the realisation that an actual person is at the other end of the derogatory message should be enough to stop people saying it. However within the world that is football, the public will always want the inside scoop immediately. But should this be our right, or should referees remain enigmatic?

At The Third Team I work individually and in collaboration with different professionals where I have developed workshops and 1-2-1 sessions associated with Resilience and Mental Toughness Development to help referees. The workshops and 1-2-1 sessions are interactive, where referees are encouraged to open up and share their experiences to help themselves and each other.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more about my workshops or 1-2-1 sessions and how I could help you or your officials.

Best Wishes,

Nathan Sherratt Signature

Nathan Sherratt

Referee Educator & Managing Director of The Third Team

Nathan Sherratt

Nathan Sherratt, Referee Educator, Resilience Trainer and Managing Director of The Third Team.  A Mental Toughness Practitioner based in County Durham, North East England.