By Marcus Chhan
Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole became the latest leading footballer to get himself in trouble on the social networking phenomenon after he was charged by the Football Association over his foul-mouthed tweet about them.
The development has led to calls from leading figures within the game - including former Three Lions defender Gary Pallister - for footballers to be banned by their clubs from using Twitter.
"I don't think banning footballers from Twitter is the answer," Dan Parr director for Fast Track Asia told ESPNSTAR.com.
"Twitter has enabled footballers, athletes and other celebrities to connect with their fans with an immediacy that we've never experienced before. Fans can now directly engage with their heroes and I think this is a very positive thing for sport."
"Sport is about emotion, and it's about the fans, so social media is just the latest environment where this can be brought together primarily in a positive, enriching way."
Parr said the issue is not the medium itself, but the use of the platform in the heat of the moment when emotions may be running high. In the case of Chelsea's Cole, his outburst came after an independent FA regulatory commission publicly doubted the evidence provided by the full-back in support of team-mate John Terry during his racist abuse case.
Cole responded by labelling the FA a "bunch of t**ts" on his Twitter account.
"We've all felt frustrated, angry, disappointed and wanted to vent, and no doubt some have done so on Twitter, Weibo, Facebook or other platforms only to regret it. The difference is when a footballer with over 400,000 followers does so, the results are significantly more impactful," Parr said.
It is understood that Cole will be fined two weeks' pay by the Blues for falling foul of the club's social media regulations. This would reportedly cost Cole around £240,000 but Parr insists clubs need to "need to get serious about the punishments meted out to those players who are abusive, insulting or racist."
"Fining someone worth £15million two weeks wages is derisory," he said.
"Do you think Ashley Cole will even notice? Banning players from playing is the only way to get their attention. I'm pretty sure that if Ashley Cole had to sit out the nest two England games which would be his 99th and 100th cap, you can bet he'd be a bit more considerate the next time he insulted his national footballing body.
"However, clubs and national associations are loathe to deny themselves their best players by banning them so this seems unlikely to happen unless an independent body is able to administer such punishment."
One possible solution Parr believes might help clubs take better control of how their players act on the social networking site is to introduce a warning system to the platform which would flag potentially offensive Tweets.
"The genie is out of the bottle with Twitter and it is not going back in," Parr said.
"Unfortunately there will always be people who use the platform in malicious ways and who fail to think through the effects of their outbursts but it is this rawness and immediacy which makes Twitter such an engaging platform.
"Banning players is not the way to go but perhaps by introducing some sort of ‘swear checker' software to Twitter which warned Tweeters they are about to send an offensive Tweet this would give people a chance to think twice and tone down their content?"
The Problem with Twitter?
Ashley Cole may have proved himself the leading exponent in the art of getting into trouble in 140 characters or less, but he is far from the first in his profession to have come a cropper on social media.
Dutch striker Babel, then with Liverpool, became the first player to be sanctioned for misuse of the social networking site in January 2011, when he was fined £10,000 by the Football Association for posting a mocked-up picture of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt.
Barton took a break from posting Nietzsche quotes to accuse Manchester City's Carlos Tevez of deliberately conspiring to get him sent off in the final game of last season at the Etihad Stadium. Barton was banned for 12 matches, although the suspension related to his on-field misconduct.
Frimpong incurred the FA's wrath in August following a brief online exchange with a Tottenham fan and his use of a word deemed derogatory by the authorities, who issued the player with a £6,000 fine for improper conduct.
The perils of posting on the social networking site are perhaps best exemplified by Wilshere, whose relatively harmless tweet about betting on team-mate Frimpong to score (even though no bet was placed) let to a stern reprimand from football's European governing body UEFA as it contravened strict betting rules.
The Manchester United man was fined £15,000 in August after admitting using an insulting word in relation to a person's sexual orientation. Ravel Morrison and Nile Ranger also received fines for separate, but similar offences.
Bent, then with Tottenham, blasted Spurs chairman Daniel Levy as he found himself being touted around rival clubs. 'Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around, Levy', he said. Bent was heavily fined by the club for his actions.
Ferdinand was fined £45,000 by the FA for improper conduct after re-tweeting an earlier post which described Ashley Cole as a 'choc ice', - a slang term meant to describe someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside, after Cole gave evidence on behalf of John Terry in the racial abuse case which involved Ferdinand's brother Anton.
Cole was fined £20,000 in April 2011 for an inappropriate tweet sent when during England were playing Ghana in a friendly at Wembley.
Szczesny was forced to make a grovelling apology in January after an ill-conceived Twitter posting in which he responded to team-mate Aaron Ramsey, who had posted a picture of himself attending a golf event, by joking the Welshman looked 'like a rapist'.
You can follow Marcus on his Twitter account @MarcusChhan for more insights from the world of sport.