Back in the mists of 2012, the Premier League issued its first ever set of social media guidelines. As departing chief executive Richard Scudamore – who actually seems to have been departing for a couple of seasons now – put it back then: “There is a more human side now to some of the players, and the public can communicate more directly with them. Sometimes there can be abusive comments, but generally the internet, online chat rooms, and the way people are communicating, is healthy.”
From the bitter and jaded waste spaces of 2019, the only possible reply to this is LOLOLOLOLOL. No one is saying that a second choice striker posting “Let’s do this!!!!!!!” or pictures of their kitchen and car specifically led to the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the ever-swelling tide of racism and misogyny, and some of your boomer relatives’ belief that two thirds of London is under sharia law. But who among us would truly rule it out?
Still, I have nothing but respect for 2012’s Scudamore’s utter realism on one front – namely, that qualified suggestion that there is a more human side “to some of the players”. To some. But for every one of these humanoids, of course, there are at least three players who regard a football emoji and a post-post-post-cliche reference to “the lads” to constitute not simply meaningful engagement with fans, but a human biological make-up. This feels a stretch.
Either way, given how much more we know about this whole social media business than we did in 2012, it does feel time for a new set of guidelines which would actually improve the fan experience, as opposed to misunderstand it, smear it with platitudes, and then try to sell it a shaving product. Here are the rules for the upcoming Premier League season:
• If you can’t say anything nice, please say it. Whatever Scudamore thought back in 2012, it is now abundantly clear that social media is primarily for connecting people with people they detest, envy, or wish to ridicule. The best way for the Premier League to enrich the fan experience of its so-called product is to allow supporters to sit slackjawed in front of days of pointless beef between football professionals. Players thundering about disrespect from other players, players arguing long into the night with pundits who’ve mildly criticised their performance – this is what we’re here for. Consider yourselves contractually obliged to oblige.
• Emojis. For the 2019-20 season, the banned emojis are the football – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YOU CAN’T POST AN EFFING FOOTBALL – the clapping hands, and the see-ya hand. The flexed arm is only acceptable if it’s meant to indicate your plan to elbow someone in your next fixture. No exceptions. I will permit use of the cry-laugh emoji, though you should know it communicates the exact opposite of riotously amused insouciance. Nothing says “I am absolutely FEWMING about this insult” more eloquently than retweeting it with the cry-laugh emoji.
• Fine players for NOT being outspoken. Making someone pay £40,000 for some relatively anodyne statement of discontent is one of the kinkiest perversions of late-stage capitalism. All clubs obsessed with #content creation should go quite the other way.
• Institute a Worst Post of the Season. For guidance, last year’s would have gone to Fernandinho, who last October took to no fewer than three separate social media platforms to sensationally reveal: “Another day to go after our objectives.” Quite a lot to live up to there.
• Still with tweets so bad they get several news stories written about them: always keep your social media team’s instructions in the tweet. Not because you’re an idiot or so lazy that you just cut and paste them in their entirety but to send a hostage-video style message about the lucrative distress you’re under. Textbook post on this front was famously Victor Anichebe’s effort after a 2016 loss to West Ham, with the then Sunderland player tweeting: “Can you tweet something like – unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take! But we go again!” You should absolutely take comfort from the fact that MPs do this too, regularly posting such gems as: “The line to take on social media is – This is one poll, we don’t get worked up by individual polls.” Break that fourth wall – it’s meta and modern.
• Never apologise; never explain. It’s a too-little-known fact that Premier League players used up their entire decade’s worth of apologies somewhere around 2014. For the 2019-20 season, no player should apologise for anything short of criminal offence, or posting a picture of something monogrammed.
• Identify the real social media enemy. I know at times it will feel like your enemy is an anonymous man with a motorbike avatar and a mention of F1 in his bio who has tweeted to tell you “your shit”. Or, and these are the worst, the men who identify as a “proud dad”. Those guys would literally gut you like a pig. In fact, though, the enemy are executives such as Manchester United’s managing director Richard Arnold, who spend so much time lining up official mattress partners and official wine partners that they omit to engage with what we might call the club’s official football partner. Earlier this year, Richard inked a deal with Remington, about which he had this to say: “Our partnership is not only about bringing our fans high-end styling products, it aims to inspire and encourage individuality though powerful activations and campaigns with both Manchester United’s men’s and women’s team.” So there you go, United players – and perhaps beyond: even if it’s just as simple an act as going out late, waking up looking like rubbish, and posting a no-filter selfie with the hashtag #remington, understand one thing. YOU ARE THE RESISTANCE.