ANGRY Workington chairman John Mackay has warned of the perils of social media within Non-League football after he became the latest victim in a season dogged by abhorrent online issues.
Family man Mackay is incensed after a damaging spoof twitter account was set up under his name which claimed he was indulging in Class A drug cocaine.
It is not immediately obvious that the @John_Mackay9 profile is a cruel parody – with many believable posts referring to matches and local football in Cumbria.
The account, which he has so far failed to get removed, is “not breaking any rules” and the Evo-Stik NPL Premier club are powerless to shut it down.
Mackay says it has been set up by a malicious rival and suspects a culprit, but stresses that more should be done to protect people online.
The 62-year-old father-of-two is “disgusted” that an image has been uploaded to the profile – that carries a bio picture of him in a Workington tracksuit – which alludes to him snorting lines of cocaine through rolled up £10 notes. I
t’s accompanied by the words: “Shout out to the lads that got me this. Buzzing me tits off.”
This is not the first instance of bullying on social media involving figures within the Non-League game.
Altrincham manager Neil Young quit the club and retired from management six games into the season after his family were subjected to apparent abuse online because of the team’s August form.
Then in a story which shocked football, Hitchin Town’s young player Alfie Barker was banned by the Football Association until next season after sending sickening tweets to AFC Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter, mocking the death of his stillborn daughter.
Mackay says more protection needs to be given and support offered after his own bad experience.
He told The Non-League Paper: “I want to be perfectly clear: I have at no point ever used twitter, and I have never used facebook.
“More importantly, I have never in my life touched drugs and I am disgusted at the accusations this imposter is making about me whilst damaging my reputation in the process.
“I will not stand for it. Just because we are living in an age where social media is important and popular, those that abuse it by trying to score political points cannot just do as they please and get away with saying and suggesting what they want about who they want.
“It’s malicious and it could put someone’s livelihood in jeopardy, it’s that serious.”
“My daughter is a police officer and she has looked into this on my behalf,” Mackay added. “But it seems nothing can be done and no laws have been broken. She says reporting it to twitter is a pointless exercise as nine times out of ten even when the police report something to twitter it gets ignored.”
The Reds chairman says unless social media become properly regulated, lives could be ruined.
“I kept thinking to myself ‘what if you were still a headteacher?” Mackay added. “I could have had serious, serious consequences for me – what if it does to the next person these type of people target?”
He says the problem runs deeper than twitter and facebook – the uprising of online message boards in the past 15 years has made football a much different business.
“I’m all for freedom of speech, but if you have something to say about someone then at least have the decency to put a name to your opinions,” said the Workington chairman, who took over the role in January.
“But that’s life, that’s how things are these days and people can get away with pretty much whatever they want. There needs to be more protection for people.”
Hitchin Town came together with Codicote FC last month as they looked to repair some of the damage done by their former player Barker’s poisonous tweets to ex-Woking and Staines Town midfielder Arter.
The 18-year-old hit the news last year for sending the Premier League player tweets including one which read: “big hype just for a disappointment like the nine months leading up to your child’s birth” followed my laughter emojis.
So disgusted were both clubs that they told the teenager he was no longer welcome and he has been banned by the Football Association and fined £250.
The pair raised nearly £1,000 between them playing an exhibition match in aid of SANDS – a charity dedicated to helping couples who have suffered after losing a child.
His tweets came after Young, the ex-Chester manager, resigned as Altrincham boss with the club’s chairman Grahame Rowley condemning what his manager went through.
He called on the minority of fans who sent messages online to consider what effect their actions have.