Friday 15 November 2019

Revealed: No social media blackout but Lions encouraged to be 'good digital tourists'

The Lions squad was announced last week. Pic: Getty Images
The Lions squad was announced last week. Pic: Getty Images

Gavin Mairs

The British and Irish Lions have opted not to impose a social media blackout on their players before and after each of the 10 matches in New Zealand and will instead encourage them to be “good digital tourists”.

The original contract sent out to the players ahead of last week’s squad announcement contained a social media clause that stated players would undertake not to use any form of social media during any of the 10 matches during a “specified period of time prior to the kick-off of a match and after the conclusion of a match, to be advised by the tour head of communications”.

However it is understood that clause, which is already used by some clubs and national sides to cover the 36 hours before and after a match, will be invoked only in extreme circumstances or if the players themselves under captain Sam Warburton decide it should be adopted during the tour.

The 41 players selected for the tour have since received a “social media pack” that encourages them instead to engage with supporters for what is for many a “once in a lifetime opportunity taking place in a digital age” – but to respect certain guidelines to protect the players and the Lions.

The new pack urges players to “use social media sites to engage with fans and boost your profile but remember that anything you post can be viewed by the general public”.

A Lions spokesman said: “There are some teams who impose a ban from the evening before the kick-off of a match to midday the day after the game but the Lions are not intending to go down that route. We are confident that players can engage responsibly on social media – and the fans’ portal to the players, as well as through the media, is through social media.”

The new guidelines include not sending messages on social media with any sensitive squad information, such as injuries, before they are publicly announced, or making negative comments about opposition players, coaches or match officials.

The players have also been told not to react to comments from “fans of other teams or other players who may try to provoke you,” given the potential for sites such as Twitter to attract negative or critical views, but otherwise they will be supported in engaging with the public.

Potential breaches of the social media policy could lead to a fine, while the contract states that “the tour management may require the player to amend or remove any communication.”

Players will be allowed to write newspaper columns during the tour subject to agreement with the Lions but will not be allowed to publish “any book relating in any way to the tour” before Oct 31 this year.

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