LIVERPOOL forward Ryan Babel has become the first footballer to be charged with improper conduct for his use of Twitter, after he posted a mocked-up picture of Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt.
Babel (right) was upset at Webb’s handling of Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie, in which the World Cup final referee awarded a harsh first minute penalty to United, before brandishing a red card to Steven Gerrard for a dangerous tackle on Michael Carrick.
The former Ajax player wrote: “And they call him one of the best referees. That’s a joke. SMH.”
SMH is an abbreviation for ‘shake my head’ but it was the picture of Webb which caused most furore and the FA have confirmed they will be examining Babel’s actions, despite him later posting an apology.
Last January, Babel criticised former Reds manager Rafael Benitez on the social networking site, and he is not the first Liverpool player to court online controversy.
Also last weekend, his teammate, Glen Johnson launched an attack on TV pundit Paul Merson after he criticised his performances for the Reds.
“Comments from alcoholic drug abusers are not really gonna upset me and who is Paul Merson to judge players, he was average at the best of times,” Johnson wrote.
And earlier this season Liverpool’s head of fitness, Darren Burgess, accused England of being “completely amateurish” for refusing to substitute Steven Gerrard after an hour of November’s friendly against France.
It is the first instance of football’s governing body clamping down on the use of Twitter by players, but their cricketing counterparts, the ECB, have been no strangers to issuing fines for similar behaviour.
Last summer Kevin Pietersen was punished after he ranted at the decision to drop him for the limited overs series against Pakistan, while former England Under-19 captain Azeem Rafiq received a one-month ban for ranting at his coach John Abrahams.