A code of conduct doesn’t convince, so leave it to clubs

Trevor Steven
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AN interesting development this week was the announcement from FA chairman David Bernstein that there is to be a code of conduct for England players.

I, for one, am not sold on the idea. All clubs have their own rules and regulations for how their players should behave. Putting social media aside, on a daily and pre-match basis those rules are already there, but social media is an issue. Players – not all of them, but some – are getting caught up in online discussions and rants on Twitter. In my opinion, it’s not down to the FA or England to police this, it’s down to the clubs.

It would be easier for clubs to have a simple policy on it. It doesn’t have to be right across the board, but clubs should be talking to each other to find the best way to monitor this.

I’ve represented players that have been fined for making a comment on a television programme they’ve just watched. Social media is here to stay; players are going to use it – it’s a worldwide marketing tool for a start. Everybody wants a lot of Twitter followers, don’t they? It opens up the possibility of greater sponsorship. Beyond that, there’s little point in players using it.

An unwritten policy between clubs would be preferable, based on what’s acceptable and what’s not. As soon as the FA say ‘this is our policy’, every newspaper is going to follow every Twitter account to scrutinise if any player is falling foul of the policy. It’ll be a feeding frenzy for journalists and media. It doesn’t need such publicity; the FA risk making it a bigger thing than it needs to be.

Maybe each club should have a social media expert. The responsibility lies with the clubs for internal policing – they have enough staff. Each club is a brand, so it’s an investment into that brand.

I think it would be a real step backwards to ban Twitter completely. Though in the England camp they should never mention anything about training or selection, they should be able to talk all they want beyond that, as all it needs is some common sense. There’s not a lot of that in football, but that’s all it needs.

On the subject of selection, Jonjo Shelvey received his first England call up this week. He’s been as consistent as anyone for Liverpool and has made the grade there; there are several recently that haven’t, and he’s shown that he has the character required to succeed. He’s brave on the ball and under Brendan Rodgers will play a brand of football that will work on the international stage. Playing alongside someone like Steven Gerrard is greater than any pressure from the fans, and he’s handling that; he could be there for England’s long haul.

Tomorrow’s match against San Marino is one we must win. I’d like to see some quality football, passing and movement and, to be honest, several goals. England should be looking forward to a game they should be expecting to win. If they score early, they should enjoy themselves.

Trevor Steven is a former England winger who played at two World Cups and two European Championships.