It’s Going to be Tough Regulating Twitter

Can those in authority in professional sports really control and regulate Twitter?  Recently, Charlie Villanueva of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks got into a heap of trouble with his coach Scott Skiles for tweeting from the locker room at half-time of a game. While Skiles won’t allow it, a new professional league, the Women’s Professional Soccer League announced plans to allow players to tweet reactions during the debut game for the league next Sunday between the Washington Freedom and Los Angeles Sol.

Fans will be able to follow two “tweeting” players at throughout the game.

The new edition of Sports Business Journal quoted the league’s commissioner as saying: “For now, this is a one-time integration of new communication technology for the inaugural match,” WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said.

“We’ll evaluate other ways the technology could be introduced in an additive but nondisruptive manner respecting the integrity of match day.”

For years, coaches and managers of professional sports teams have initially resisted many of the innovative broadcasting techniques employed by networks such as placing microphones on players and coaches.  However, recent years have seen great progress with baseball managers on the Fox and ESPN Games of the Week regularly chatting with the announcers during a game while players wear mikes. The National Hockey League has done the same with NBC and Versus positioning a broadcaster at ice level adjacent to the bench as a regular feature.

What these leagues have done is give fans greater access to their product and players.  For the most part, much of this content can still be regulated and controlled. However, the free-flowing nature of Twitter may present some serious problems in regards to how leagues can control the flow of information.

Some of the questions posed by allowing Twitter to be used during games include:

Do the leagues want information from the bench shared with world and the opposing team during the course of a game?

What’s to stop injury information or strategy from being revealed?

How about players questioning coaching strategy?

What are the gambling ramifications of too much information getting out? Injuries right before kickoff, bullpen pitchers unavailable to pitch, etc.

How about sideline guest tweeting information about plays or injury status from an NFL game?

Or a pit crew guest sending out data on fuel status?

The questions posed by the use of Twitter can be endless.  As leagues begin exploring ways to use this social media service they will naturally have to adapt it to ensure it does not infringe on the game itself or the players.

Businesses are experimenting with Twitter and now professional sports are doing so as well.  There will certainly be pitfalls to its use.  However, like microphones on players and managers during live telecasts, barriers will quickly fall.  How quickly Twitter becomes part of the game is only a matter of question now.

Tom Cosentino

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