England rugby players have been issued a 24-point social media guide for the World Cup, including warnings not to use Twitter “after a tough loss” and not to “engage in arguments” online.
The English measures come in a week when the perils of social media embarrassment were highlighted by Wallaby Quade Cooper’s expletive-filled rant at a critic on Twitter after Australia beat Argentina in a Rugby Championship Test.
England host the World Cup in September and October and don’t want any controversies disrupting their bid for a second title.
They have already banned players from writing newspaper columns or making video diaries during the tournament and now they have issued a comprehensive guideline to social media use.
The players aren’t prevented from using social media, but clearly they now have some boundaries to work with.
“Do not post when you are in a bad mood or immediately after a tough loss,” the RFU guidelines, which were gained exclusively by Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, state.
“Remember you will be regarded as a role model by the public and the media whether you like it or not.
“Once you’ve posted something online, it can always be tracked back to you. Even if you delete it.
“Establish your own personal guidelines for using social media so you can stay focused on your performance.
“It may be that you don’t use your accounts after a certain hour during the evening, or turn them off completely on the morning of a game until after you have played.”
England have found themselves in the tournament’s “pool of death”, grouped with heavyweights Australia and Wales and Fiji and Uruguay. Just two teams advance to the quarter-finals.
The union has also warned against the perils of getting involved in twitter arguments, concerned at potential baiting by opposition players or fans.
“You’ll only end up looking foolish (you’ll also likely boost the other person’s follower count) as well as keeping the story going. Serious abuse should be reported to the RFU Communications Department.
“Do not use abusive, indecent or insulting words yourself. This includes any inappropriate reference to ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, faith or religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
“By sharing or retweeting anything of this nature, you then become responsible for its content. Avoid replying to or retweeting users with vulgar names or with inappropriate profile images.”
Players have also been told not to “post pictures of drinking, smoking, nudity or tweet while driving – that is illegal” and to make sure they proof-read their messages before posting.
The union encouraged positive interaction, including thanking fans after “a good win” and retweeting positive reactions from fans.
“It’s perfectly fine to display your sense of humour on Twitter. Fans in particular love it when athletes show their personality. But don’t tweet at the expense of others.”