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Page last updated at 22:48 GMT, Saturday, 12 February 2011

FA warns players over social network use

Ryan Babel
Babel was sold after critical comments on Twitter about referee Webb

Players could be sued by third parties over contentious internet postings on social network sites, the Football Association has warned.

The governing body has clarified its position in an official statement posted on its site on Saturday.

The FA fined former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel in January over critical comments made by the Dutchman on Twitter about referee Howard Webb.

Babel, who now plays for Hoffenheim, was fined £10,000.

The FA stated: "Comments made on [social network sites] may be considered public comment, any comments which are deemed improper, bring the game into disrepute, or are threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting may lead to disciplinary action.

"Comments which are personal in nature or could be construed as offensive, use foul language or contain direct or indirect threats aimed at other participants are likely to be considered improper.

"Participants are required to act in the best interests of the game at all times and should be aware of this when using social networking websites.

"Furthermore, participants are reminded that postings on social networking sites which they believe to be visible to a limited number of selected people may still end up in the public domain, and consequently care should be exercised with regards to the contents of such postings.

"In addition, we would remind participants that social networking postings could also lead to civil proceedings being brought by affected parties."

Last weekend, England's young Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere posted critical remarks about referee Phil Dowd on Twitter, but was not punished by the FA.

Whereas Wilshere had simply tweeted about "inconsistent refereeing", Babel had posted a picture of Webb in a Manchester United shirt, thus suggesting the official was deliberately biased.

The problem is not confined to football - last September cricketer Kevin Pietersen was fined an undisclosed amount by the England and Wales Cricket Board for his misuse of Twitter.

In the United States, the NFL's Twitter policy stipulates that "players must not tweet 90 minutes before kick-off and until they have met post-match media obligations".

Players breaking that rule are automatically fined $25,000 (£15,750), though the FA argues that a Twitter policy should come from the Premier League.

The NBA also stipulates that mobile phones and other communication devices cannot be used from 45 minutes prior to a match and until after the players have finished their post-match responsibilities to traditional media outlets.

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