In the world we live in today, a referee’s decision, whether it be correct or incorrect, is uploaded online within seconds of it happening, usually onto social media. More often than not, the decision of the referee is taken out of context or his interpretation of The Laws of The Game misunderstood. Over the past 15 years the advent of social media has made the way people communicate with each other unrecognisable.
This article contains advice and recommendations for referees, as well as those involved in the management and training of officials. The guidance is applicable to many forms of social media and networking, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram, in addition to any personal websites or blogs referees may administrate, be it personally or professionally. This advice is designed to assist officials in establishing appropriate social media behaviours, in addition to making referees aware of the potential consequences of misconduct on social media.
Involvement in online social networks impacts personal, social and professional areas of your life
First of all, it must be said that referees are more than entitled to portray themselves on social media as they wish to be seen. It is worth bearing in mind however, that if you make comment on your role as a referee then you must be transparent: your football association must be shown in a realistic light. Try to use the platform to be a positive ambassador for football and football officials.
Take care of your private life and your personal details
In order to be sure that elements of your private life and your personal details remain secure, it is a good idea not to disseminate personal details such as telephone numbers or addresses. You can protect your working environment by not taking any chances which could compromise your reputation. To be sure that you have a boundary between your personal and professional worlds, it is not advised that you use personal email addresses and passwords to create professional accounts (particularly on Twitter and Facebook). Always remember that all of your online activity is stored forever and could be available to anyone, including those who may wish to use it to misrepresent you.
Don’t engage with individuals who could pose a threat
Try to think carefully about those who are sending you friend requests, if you do not know them personally then think about whether they will add value to your network. Always be on the lookout for, and do not accept requests from those who appear not to be genuine accounts. Remain alert at all times to any potential links you may receive in private messages as they could be potentially compromised. In addition, take note of posts from the accounts of friends, as their accounts could be compromised if they’re posting content which is unusual for them.
Make sure that all opinions you share on any social media platform are personal and do not in any way reflect those of anyone you represent
All posts published should be dignified, in good taste and mustn’t contain disrespectful or obscene language or imagery
At no time is it acceptable to insult or make offensive comments about anyone which could be disseminated online. Additionally, do not post any content that is threatening, obscene, or harmful to the reputation or interests of associations, clubs, club officials, your colleagues or players. You are reminded that inappropriate communications may affect the liability of your association and the integrity of the game itself.
The benefits of referees using social media are:
- The Instantaneous access to live information on football and refereeing worldwide, such as shared images, videos and documents.
- Online platforms, such as social media outlets, allow colleagues far apart to network and stay in touch easily.
- Social media has many tools which can be utilised for educational purposes, such as learning from colleagues in other Counties, States, Countries or Continents, regarding the methods they use to referee games and handle certain situations within those games and how effective these methods have proven to have been.
- The Internet provides an opportunity for a global community of officials to participate in, and organise their own series of events which will aid the development of officials, be this in the form of a Laws of the Game quiz or analysis of in-game scenarios.
- There is also an opportunity to use the platform to facilitate debate on the correct form of action to take to any specific incident, based upon each user’s interpretation of how The Laws of the Game covers actions to take in relation to that incident.
- Online there are no geographical or language barriers.
The risks of referees using social media are:
- The more information you share on your social media profiles, the more the privacy of your personal life is removed.
- When you create any social media profile, the protection of your privacy and confidentiality is much harder to guarantee and this can impact your job as a referee.
- Any transmission of information using the Internet is not completely secure, all transmissions of data carry a risk.
- Sharing any amount of personal information, such as that held on a social media profile, opens you up to a degree of risk when it comes to impersonation.
- On online forums there is a degree of anonymity, as such this could leave you exposed to faceless individuals who may use the platforms to be abusive, prejudiced, obscene and/or to share racist criminal views.
Nathan Sherratt is a Referee Educator and the Managing Director of The Third Team. He works individually and in collaboration with different professionals to develop workshops associated with Resilience and Mental Toughness Development to help referees. You can learn more by visiting The Third Team website or by contacting Nathan here.