David BevanComment


David BevanComment

Twitter is revolutionizing communication between figures in the game and the paying public, now a club chairman has openly discussed the breakdown of a transfer with those who follow him, prompting claim and counter-claim 

The news that Sam Baldock's proposed move to Peterborough United fell through earlier this week probably passed many people by. Understandably so. This wasn't a saga involving a Cesc or a Samir, after all. This was just a run-of-the-mill non-story involving a couple of English football's lower league sluggers. So how did it provide perhaps the firmest evidence yet that social media is revolutionising the way football reporting works?

This is not to suggest that Twitter in particular hasn't already considerably changed the world of journalism. The impression many regional football writers give is that print deadlines and scheduled sport bulletins have become an albatross in a landscape where being first is the only thing that counts. Supporters grow frustrated at the concept of waiting for the following morning when all will be revealed in hard copy. You have a website. Use it.

We are already seeing this change - the nationals led the way and the regionals are catching up. But there is a new threat to the traditional format of football reporting. Why would a chairman speak to the media when he or she can quickly tweet their thoughts, leaving newspapers scrambling to catch up with news that has already effectively broken.

Again, there is nothing new any more in people within football bypassing the media through the use of social media. Who could forget where they were in that earth-shattering moment when Wayne Rooney tweeted the result of his hair transplant procedure? Glibness aside, the subsequent news articles looked almost apologetically pathetic. "You already know about this, but here it is anyway..."

Peterborough agreed a fee with Milton Keynes for their homegrown striker Baldock and it was assumed that the player would jump at the chance to leave League One behind and prove himself in the Championship with the newly-promoted Cambridgeshire side. What actually happened was that Posh manager Darren Ferguson returned from holiday to hold talks with the potential recruit, only for the move to collapse.

Normally, this would result in a vague statement from both clubs failing to give any specific reason for the unforeseen alteration in events. But Peterborough's chairman is Darragh MacAnthony, a man who has never been afraid to give his opinion on something. MacAnthony used his Twitter account to claim that Ferguson had been unimpressed in some way with Baldock's attitude or demeanour and had brought negotiations to a swift conclusion, sending the young forward back to Milton Keynes.

What then transpired is not especially relevant here but, for the record, Baldock issued a statement via the Milton Keynes website to refute MacAnthony's claims, Ferguson then waded in with a counter-claim and there is currently a stand-off between two sides who have grown to be bitter rivals since their League Two title chase in 2007/08. While MacAnthony wished Baldock luck for the future and Ferguson spoke of his respect for Milton Keynes chairman Pete Winkleman, their words also held a steely determination that Peterborough United's reputation would not be sullied.

MacAnthony's action in releasing such candid information through his Twitter account clearly demonstrates a desire to communicate directly with supporters of the club, something he has done in recent weeks from the sunny climes of a tropical holiday. His revelations cut out the middleman and supporters must be starting to question the need for regional football writers.

This is not their fault - many of them are brilliant and vastly underrated by the supporters of the clubs they cover. But news is changing and now the media, local newspapers in particular, must adapt. News articles in the traditional format, padded out with statistics that can just as easily be drawn by any punter within seconds from the web, are beginning to look outdated. If the story can be condensed into 140 characters, why would anyone want to read something five times the length with no greater number of key facts? Writing for the web is different - readers filter out the filler and scan for the development they are interested in. 

Perhaps coverage will become more opinion-orientated with blogs gaining supremacy over news articles, particularly in the case of transfer dealings where social media is dealing its most troublesome blows. The monetisation of Twitter, whereby small subscription fees would be payable in order to follow certain individuals or organisations, also seems like a future possibility.

This isn't the present or even the near future - the vast majority of the population do not have Twitter accounts and not every supporter can rely on the intricacies of their progress in the transfer window to be laid bare in such a fashion. Nevertheless, it does give a glimpse of something different which may appeal to a growing number of football clubs. There can be no misreporting when the story comes straight from the horse's mouth.

David is the editor of the quite brilliant website theseventytwo.com & can be found on Twitter here