We should all take ex­tra cau­tion on­line

The Non-League Football Paper - - NEWS - Alex Narey Ed­i­tor – @anarey_NLP

The story to the right of this col­umn – our page lead – has been all over the na­tional news this week, but it was still im­por­tant that we ran with it to mark its sever­ity. Every­one at The NLP was hor­ri­fied on Wed­nes­day morn­ing when we read about Al­fie Barker’s pa­thetic but hurt­ful trolling of AFC Bournemouth mid­fielder Harry Arter.

You don’t need to be a par­ent – or a par­ent who has suf­fered an or­deal like Arter and his part­ner did – to ap­pre­ci­ate the sever­ity and evil na­ture of what Barker tweeted. It was dis­gust­ing, and while he has shown remorse for his ac­tions, the no-non­sense re­sponse from both Hitchin and Cod­i­cote in ter­mi­nat­ing their re­spec­tive reg­is­tra­tions with the player should be ap­plauded.

There will be some peo­ple who will ar­gue clubs, and the FA, should be do­ing more to ed­u­cate play­ers on man­ag­ing their so­cial me­dia pro­files. But while there are guidelines in place, it should not be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of a club or the FA to hold a player’s hand in such cases like this. They know it is wrong, just like they know it is wrong to go to a pub and throw a punch at some­one re­gard­less of how many beers they have had.

As well as the spite­ful com­ments to Arter, Barker’s ac­tions have dragged Non-League foot­ball through the mud, and es­pe­cially the two clubs he was reg­is­tered with. I feel for Hitchin and Cod­i­cote be­cause they have been swept up in a me­dia storm they are ill-pre­pared to cope with. Hitchin, as I un­der­stand, worked tire­lessly to deal with the Na­tional Press on Wed­nes­day, and they were no doubt still sweep­ing up the mess a day later even when the story be­came ‘yes­ter­day’s news’. It should not dam­age their rep­u­ta­tion and the club’s ac­tions through­out have been ex­em­plary – and let it be noted that Barker made two sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ances for the Ca­naries to­talling no more than 15 min­utes! He was not a con­tracted player and yet the club was in the fir­ing line.

As an added re­sponse, and in the hope that some­thing good can come out of this sorry mess, Hitchin have de­cided to hold a col­lec­tion for SANDS UK – the char­ity sup­port­ing those who have ex­pe­ri­enced the still­birth or neona­tal death of a child – at their home game with Cirencester on Jan­uary 21. A big crowd would be wel­come, but big do­na­tions even more so.

In­ter­net trolling is, sadly, now part of the world we live in – and the im­pact it is hav­ing con­tin­ues to grow. I use Twit­ter, but I use it with great cau­tion be­cause I am con­scious of up­set­ting peo­ple who may hap­pen to take com­ments I make the wrong way. It has be­come a fan­tas­tic tool for jour­nal­ists to spread their word, while foot­ballers can touch base with the fans who adore them. But there is a line that can quickly be crossed. You need to think about where one tweet will lead be­fore jump­ing in head first.

In Barker’s case, that er­ror of judgement could well lead to the end of his foot­balling dream. Now I can’t say I will be los­ing any sleep over that.

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