Is social media ruining the World Cup?

Apart from watching the games on TV, I am getting most of my updates on the World Cup via Twitter. I find it’s one of the easiest ways to follow all of the action across South Africa in simple bite-size pieces. Usually leading to the more in-depth, informative information I want to read.

But there is plenty of garbage to wade through too!

Countless comments about the curse of the vuvuzela. Yes, they’re annoying, but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of the horn blowers running out of breath yet so let’s just embrace the vuvuzela and get on with it – at least they managed to drown out the England band for a while!

Some Twitterers are also tweeting too much for my liking.

Real Madrid provided blow-by-blow updates on the match between Holland and Denmark, simply because Van der Vaart (the Madrid forward) featured in the game for the Dutch – and these double up in both Spanish and English. Of course, I don’t need any of these updates because I can watch the match on old-fashioned TV. And I don’t feel there is any kind of legacy from Real Madrid chirping into Tweeterspace every time the ball went near their striker.

Several tweets have been quite alarmist and misleading too. Leading up to the tournament in South Africa there were countless tweets proclaiming dozens of deaths when police opened the gates to a stadium hosting a warm-up match for the tournament.

Before too long it was apparent that nobody had been killed. Thank goodness. Yes, football fans had been injured and the incident raised serious security questions. But that is quite different to reporting that people are dying or have died.

Then, a few days into the tournament, an established Nigerian journalist, started tweeting that there was ‘BIG TROUBLE’ outside the stadium in Durban and that there had been an explosion. This was picked up and retweeted by various sources and alarm bells were ringing again.

It later transpired there had been a protest by some of the security workers after the match and police had to break this up. Nobody, it seems, was seriously hurt. I say ‘it seems’ because it is sometimes difficult to decipher the genuine information in the social media landscape. Exactly what kind of force was used in Durban I’m not sure but it certainly seems that it was nowhere near as threatening as was first being reported.

Is Twitter turning respected journalists into the boy who cried wolf? It does seem that rumour can sometimes be perceived as fact in social media. We should never believe everything we read but I think we need to be extra careful not to get carried away in Twitterland, especially following what seems to have been a sustained scaremongering campaign leading into this tournament for several months (if not years).

The other problem with social media in this arena is that so much information is so accessible. Ok, I Hoover it up as much as I can because I am a real football fan. Everyone wants a slice of the World Cup cake and they want to eat it. I am no different.

But in some ways the romance of the World Cup has been lost in the digital media explosion. Who knew about Roger Milla before Italia 90 kicked off? Not many I think. Cameroon’s amazing win over the holders was a major embarrassment to Argentina and the fact that the global audience hardly new a thing about the African nation made it all the more compelling.

Now we can access bucketloads of information on all of the teams (apart from North Korea maybe) prior to the competition and throughout. It’s great but doesn’t it take away some of the intrigue and awe?

The vast influx of foreign players into the English Premier League in the last ten to 15 years – and the fact that so many World Cup players of note will have competed in the European Champions League dilutes the excitement to an extent. We already know most of the biggest stars to take part in this year’s tournament.

Of the first 17 goals scored in the 2010 World Cup only two – Jung Soo Lee (S Korea) and Siphiwe Tshabalala (S Africa) were not established players in the main European leagues ahead of the tournament. All of the others would have played either in the Champions League or would have been playing for clubs competing for places in that competition or the Europa League. Both of these competitions, and most of the European domestic leagues of course command large TV audience and widespread media coverage (including many tweets from players, clubs journalists and fans).

Of those players that may be a bit more obscure you can bet there are many videos uploaded to YouTube from various corners of the world showcasing their skills with links shared on Facebook, Twitter and email.

So the World Cup seems to set become less renowned for new stars to be bursting onto the global footballing horizon. Yes, I am probably being sentimental but I just don’t feel the same excitement for the matches that I did in say Italia ‘90 or even USA ’94.

Don’t get me wrong I really enjoy some of the tweets I am receiving on the World Cup – notably Henry Winter, Mark Bright and ‘OptaJoe’. But what do you think about the news stream around the 2010 World Cup and how do you interpret the social media surrounding the best sporting competition on earth?

About Colin Wood

Communications professional, specialising in integrated PR strategy, media relations, as well as online marketing and content delivery. Previously with Sheffield Wednesday, Perth Glory and Colchester United. Now back in Western Australia.
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1 Response to Is social media ruining the World Cup?

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