Danes impose ban on Twitter louts
And so we will not be hearing from the Denmark players via Twitter during Euro 2012. They have been banned from using the social network and will be disclosing their views only at tightly controlled press conferences. The ever-vigilant “Thought Police” have made a pre-emptive strike.
“There is so much communication during the championships that we want to limit it to meetings with the media,” Lars Berendt, the Danish FA’s communications chief, explained gravely. And perhaps quite a few of the other 15 countries will follow suit shortly; in the paranoid world of the footballing spin doctors, silence – well, as near as dammit – is golden.
As a jobbing journo, I do not welcome this turn of events. European Championship and World Cup finals are difficult enough to cover, anyway, especially when the distance between venues is great. This summer, the fact that the tournament is joint-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, with all its dodgy travel infrastructure, will only exacerbate those difficulties.
Thus, being at an assigned press conference at a far-flung training ground or stadium at a certain time, with it being the only pre-match source of face-to-face information, is going to prove logistically challenging. In the journo heyday, most national papers would have had a staff man stationed close to each country’s base. But no more.
Cutbacks in budgets and staffing levels mean that the hard-pressed hack will be expected to be here, there and everywhere. Have laptop, will travel, wherever you get told to go, however far away. But if that is physically impossible, then the papers will often employ a “stringer” – a freelance – to do the job.
With respect, the standard of copy will suffer. Stringers will have mostly paid their own way to Poland and Ukraine on a relative shoestring – pardon the pun – will have to service up to five or six papers/websites/agencies at the same presser/match and will have little time to compose error-free articles.
Just get the piece sent, do the next one, and the next, take the overnight train to Poznan or early-morning flight to Donetsk … and start again. The freelance is a flogged workhorse, usually paid pitifully, but who provides a valuable service in an industry that shrinks in its quota of full-time writers by the month.
And, yes – I hate to say it, it’s a sad indictment of my profession – but some games will be covered off the TV by a reporter in the comfort of his front room at home in England. And, yes, some papers will ever so subtly dress up the report to look as if their supposed man on the spot was, er, actually on the spot in Eastern Europe … not back in Blighty. It is a modern trend that I despise; it is effectively conning the reader. But now, as the credit crunch continues to fester, anything goes. Who cares about morals?
I digress. The point is, the weary journo – as he hops from city to city – will need every scrap of fresh info he can get his hands on. And yet if the phenomenon that is Twitter were to be taken away from him across the board, with every country copying the Danes, the groans would be heard extensively among a frustrated “Fourth Estate”. Official “pressers” are mostly bland, conducted by control-freak media masters and totally lacking in the spikiness, wit or humour of Twitter-land.
Mind you, perhaps Denmark have got it dead right, particularly as they are in Group B – the “Group of Death” – with Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands. Can you imagine the potential for cyberspace carnage as the Danish, Dutch, German and Portuguese players hammer each other during what is sure to be a a fraught four-way feud? A lot of it might amount to no more than harmless banter, perhaps, but the barbs, insults and jibes could create a never-ending frenzy of tit-for-tat controversy.
Does Euro 2012 need or deserve this? Probably not. And, anyway, who cares about the quotes-starved journos? Not many.
Thomas Sorensen, the Stoke City goalkeeper, is a fully paid-up member of the www network, with 20,000 followers. “There was a time,” he said, “when we lived without Twitter. And we’ll be able to do that during the Euros.” Don’t, despite the best efforts of the Thought Police, bet on it. Sorensen divulged his comments … via Twitter!