We should all take extra caution online
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.