Babel is first footballer to face FA Twitter charge
But Dutch winger gets backing of his tech-savvy new manager Kenny Dalglish
Liverpool player Ryan Babel has broken new ground by becoming the first footballer to be charged by the FA over comments made on social networking site Twitter after suggesting a top referee was biased.
The Dutch winger is in hot water thanks to a message he posted in the aftermath of Liverpool's FA Cup defeat to Manchester United on Sunday. The offending tweet featured a mocked-up picture (shown below) of the referee, Howard Webb, wearing a United shirt, with the message: "And they call him one of the best referees? That's a joke."
Although plenty of footballers have fallen foul of their managers and clubs in the past thanks to their social networking activities, it is the first time that the sport's governing body has felt compelled to act over a tweet. Babel now faces a charge of improper conduct.
The Dutchman has something of a history of getting carried away on Twitter. Last season he upset his former manager Rafa Benitez after complaining that he had been left out of the team to play Stoke, and during the World Cup he managed to get the entire Dutch squad banned from the site after streaming footage of one of his team-mates insulting Moroccans.
This time, however, he appears to have an ally in new Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish - who is reported to be the only current Premier League manager with an active Twitter account of his own.
After 10 years away from football management it had been claimed that the 59-year-old Scot was out of touch. But his comments in defence of the player showed that he has not allowed the technical revolution to pass him by.
He dismissed the message as "only a bit of fun," and pointed out that Babel was unlikely to be the source of the Photoshopped image. "I don't think he's clever enough technically to have drawn that up himself," he added.
Babel may be the first footballer to face charges over Twitter, but England's cricketers already have a proud history when it comes to landing themselves in trouble with the authorities - using 140 characters or less.
Last year Kevin Peitersen reacted to the news he had been dropped from the England squad by declaring the decision "a fuck-up" and was subsequently fined by the ECB.
The young Yorkshire off spinner Azeem Rafiq trumped that when he took umbrage at being caught breaking a curfew while with the England Under-19 team. He was suspended for a month and fined £500 for letting rip on Twitter after being punished. In his tweet, Rafiq called John Abrahams, the ECB's elite player development manager, a "useless wanker".