International Rugby
RFU launch social media crackdown
ESPNscrum Staff
October 14, 2010
The William Webb Ellis Trophy pictured prior to the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 Pool Allocation Draw at Tower Bridge in London, England on December 1, 2008.
Players will not be allowed to use blogging or social networking sites during next year's showpiece event in New Zealand © Getty Images

England's leading players have been cautioned about the perils of using social networking and micro-blogging sites such as Facebook and Twitter during next year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

The warning comes from the Rugby Football Union who have launched the crackdown in an attempt to prevent the kind of embarrassing online outbursts that have plagued other sports. In two recent high-profile incidents, cricketer Kevin Pietersen was fined after revealing on Twitter that he had been dropped by England before the official squad announcement while Hampshire all-rounder Dimitri Mascarenhas was suspended for an expletive-laden tirade aimed at national selector Geoff Miller.

However, English rugby's governing body has stopped short of an outright ban on the use of such sites and insist their stance represents "a firming up" of existing guidelines concerning the use of such sites.

Reports had suggested that as well as a ban on the use of Twitter and Facebook, players would also be denied the chance to sign lucrative newspaper columns in what would be a further blow to their own commercial prospects. But the RFU, who outlined their plans to club officials and agents at Twickenham earlier this week, insist that media work and also personal sponsorships are subject to the same review process that existed at the 2003 and 2007 World Cup tournaments.

"The only area where there is any change at all is in social media where there is no ban - just a firming up of the guidelines around the content that can be published on Twitter or Facebook," said an RFU spokesman. "This largely reflects their growth as a medium. Even at the 2007 Rugby World Cup both were embryonic but now they are widely used and the new guidelines are there just to remind players that this is a public medium, not a private medium, and that they should therefore think carefully about posting content on there that brings the tournament or the team they play for into disrepute."

Any ban or tightening of restrictions would likely require the support of the players' union, the Rugby Players' Association, who would no doubt demand that the loss of potential commercial income was off-set by increased remuneration elsewhere.

The RFU's policy is aimed at protecting their own commercial deals and supporting the International Rugby Board's efforts to safeguard the multi-million pound sponsorship deals struck with the official partners for their showpiece event.

The New Zealand Government passed the Major Events Management Act in 2007 to meet the IRB's rules for protecting the World Cup's sponsors and 'clean zones' will be in operation during the tournament that will prevent rival companies advertising within 5km of match venues. Fans will also face restrictions with reports suggesting that those wearing shirts featuring the logo of a competitor set to be asked to cover-up or be denied entry.

The Football Association banned the England football team from using Facebook and Twitter during this year's FIFA World Cup and similar efforts by Premiership side Leicester Tigers, Premier League giants Manchester United and European Ryder Cup chiefs have attempted to restrict the use of the increasingly popular sites.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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