AS someone old enough to remember a mysterious thing called the World Wide Web which could only be accessed in the university library, it was instructive to find a selection of our Commonwealth Games-qualified athletes being briefed on the dos and don’ts of social media up at their Team Scotland camp at Dunblane Hydro this week.

Ultimately of course each athlete’s Twitter feeds or Instagram posts are entirely their own business, but this was a badly-needed 
reminder about how much of a minefield this area can be. 

Basically, during the Games Times Period (March 20 to April 21) you are not allowed to post video footage or audio footage. Capturing the opening ceremony on Periscope as you march round is a definite no-no – as you are not a rights-holding broadcaster. First-person columns or exclusive interviews are frowned upon too – as you are an athlete, not a journalist.

There was a warning on ambush marketing – no matter how much rival sportswear firms might want to spoil Scotland’s party with kit manufacturers Canterbury – and a reminder that everything you post must be in the bounds of good taste or the Commonwealth Games Federation’s rules against obscenity.

The reason I raise this matter is quite simple: for the rest of the world on Twitter, facebook, or certain internet message boards, very few 
of these rules apply. And even if they do, anonymous avatars can be rather difficult to track down. 

The sad example of Elise Christie at the Winter Olympics this week was a case in point. While most would regard the 27-year-old from Livingston’s traumatic attempts to add an Olympic medal to her already remarkable resume as a source of pity – she may yet get the last laugh in Beijing in four years’ time - the blogosphere wasn’t quite so charitable. 

“I’m sorry it didn’t end up the way we all hoped and I’m thankful to every message of support and thankful to every person that’s taken time out to say that I inspired them,” Christie wrote on social media from PyeongChang this week, surely in wilful denial about the millions of instant armchair experts on the Winter Olympics who suddenly seem to be deriving genuine pleasure having fun at her expense. 

It is hard to understand the mindset – where four years ago, it was Koreans who sent her death threats after taking out one of their favourites in Sochi, now the Twitter trolls were closer to home.

Forget about the all minute technical nuances of her sport, this was a loser who must be lampooned at every opportunity. While One particular GIF of Bambi on ice seemed particularly popular, when you throw in the use of hashtags and Twitter handles then it really is little better than the bullying she used to experience at school in West Lothian.

While sport is littered with excellent exponents of social media – the likes of Andy and Judy Murray are generally top notch at getting their message across – it is little wonder if Team Scotland boffins were gently asking this week if their athletes really need the hassle when one of the biggest moments in their lives tick round. For some, using it will be a chance to communicate directly with supporters and friends, a chance to normalise a time of their lives which is anything but normal. For others, it is a needless distraction which can only do harm to their efforts to execute to the best of their ability. 

In any case, the Christie affair put the tin lid on another week which showed how much of a rhino’s hide you need to survive, let alone thrive, in sport. Forget about the Barry Bennell affair, which is something of a different order entirely, but David Weatherston, a fine striker who I first experienced as a callow teenager at Queen’s Park, was speaking movingly this week of the anxiety, nerves and depression which he felt hamstrung by during his career, and how the dressing room was often an unforgiving place to be. 

Maybe the relentless mockery of the locker room is merely a defence mechanism to toughen sports people up for inevitable disappointments which await. But, Winter Olympics or not, surely we receive enough sledging from the other side to also have to fend it off from our own.


ONE governing body to rule them all: it is the fabled prophesy which has long been the holy grail of Scottish football, back in the days when there used to be one more mouth to feed – the SFL, SPL and SFA – on the sixth floor at Hampden.

Now there are only two, and suddenly with the demise of Stewart Regan, all the balls are back up in the air when it comes to the future of football governance in this country. Could we be seeing the end of the SFA as we know it, either streamlined, merged, or subject to a form of hostile takeover by the SPFL by 2020-21, all driven by powerful agitators for change such as Celtic?

Perhaps. Would it be in everyone’s best interests? Let’s wait for the small print. While it is true that the SFA could be run far more economically, the big clubs – ultimately – have only their own interests at heart. Could the end game be a renewed attempt to gatecrash the Barclays Premier League?