By Charles Randall
25 June 2012
Twitter messages by players in Yorkshire have landed a club in deep trouble, leaving their officials having to fight against league expulsion and even to stay in existence.
The sad story of Rossington Main CC, reported by the Doncaster Free Press, should serve as a warning that Twitter users should use this public medium responsibly and that consequences, legal or otherwise, could be severe. The case of Rossington Main has not reached the courts, but uncertainty of fixtures could lead to the club's extinction -- simply due to abusive messages.
Rossington were handed a two-year suspension from all South Yorkshire Senior Cricket League competition, and their Division One matches were scrubbed after allegations that a small group of players, including committee men, abused the league chairman Terry Bentham and other league officials on Twitter. The decision was upheld at appeal.
Rossington claim they have been treated unfairly and have contacted the ECB for clarification. They said in a club statement that they considered that the disciplinary process was not in accordance with league rules and did not follow the disciplinary codes and procedures of the Yorkshire Cricket Board or ECB regulations and guidelines. The statement continued: "Rossington Main CC recognise that whilst some individual club members have brought the club into disrepute through their involvement in recent Twitter activity, the South Yorkshire Senior Cricket League decision is both incorrect and unfair."
The club officially distanced itself from the Twitter messages, claiming that legal advice supported the view that this was a non-Rossington matter and should not have led to disciplinary action against them. The matter was complicated by previous disciplinary issues between the league and the club. Doncaster-based Rossington, a second-tier club in the league, face the prospect of players leaving to find senior cricket this season, which would lead to decline and possible extinction.
Though the March case of Lalit Modi might be at a more rarified level -- his Twitter accusation as IPL commissioner against Chris Cairns cost him probably well over £200,000 for a libel defeat at the Royal Courts of Justice in London -- it is clear that abuse and falsehoods could have consequences at any level.