Should football teams be taking part in ‘banter’ on Twitter?

21 October 2014, 21:10

Despite the popularity of betting accounts such as @paddypower, is there ever a time for professional football clubs to ape the antics of the mischief-making betting giants and taking part in ‘banter’ via Twitter?

It’s such a cringeworthy term, banter, and one which will forever be associated with the embarrassingly stone-age views of middle-aged men such as Richard Keys and Andy Grey, who escalated the word’s use a few years ago when spreading their misogynistic views on lineswoman Sian Massey. Since then it’s passed through the era of ‘bants’ to reach a stage when the word gets used ironically by innocent bystanders who are shuffling uncomfortably when they witness it in the wild.

The English account of German footballing giants Bayern Munich are fine purveyors of this particular approach. Their most recent foray into these waters was ahead of tonight’s match against AS Roma, and the below example is maybe proof of the growing Americanisation of the club’s social media approach.

While there’s obviously nothing overly provocative here, the club are clearly going down a polite yet confrontational road. It’s a tactic which mainly serves to galvanise existing fans rather than win over new ones, and if that’s the Twitter account’s primary focus then that’s fine, but it does make for slightly uncomfortable reading. There’s a brilliant term which was coined by satirical magazine Private Eye for this: branter. While we’re with @TheMediaTweets in wanting the use of the word outlawed, it does a perfect job of describing the Twitter phenomenon.

Sadly, English clubs aren’t merely observers when it comes to this behaviour. Only yesterday West Brom were mocking their Premier League rivals Manchester United with this tweet at half-time between the two:

After more than 21,000 retweets – usually the account’s tweets barely reach three figures – and some newspaper coverage, the club issued an apology of sorts in which they claim to have been the victims of a misunderstanding.

The fact that Fellaini subsequently scored within three minutes of making his appearance from the bench might hopefully make official club accounts think twice before mocking the opposing sides’ subs. Unsurprisingly, only 24 hours later at least two teams referenced the West Brom tweets. First, Wolves, who received a reply from their Birmingham-based counterparts:

This was followed up by, surprise surprise, Bayern Munich:

While it’s no doubt interesting for fans to see this approach – and ourselves, of course – it’s all a bit too much. The strength of Paddy Power’s brand is that they deliberately set out to be provocative and controversial. Football clubs have a much wider audience, and humour is incredibly subjective. While some followers will have a chuckle at their football team’s ‘banter’, we can’t help but feel this is one approach that needs to find its way out of the game as quickly as it’s come in.

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