Gerard Pique's use of Periscope has sounded alarms at Barcelona. Images from the defender showed in intimate detail his team-mates in the aeroplane, contrasting with the measures the club has taken to preserve this intimacy. They have blocked the journalists from travelling from the team and fans' access is increasingly restricted. From the club they are officially "analysing the situation" because it's a term that "demands reflection". But the reality is there is a big worry about the footballers' activities on social networks.
The case of Pique is especially significant. He has filmed three Periscope sessions in a week. The first, after Barcelona's game against Sevilla. He did it from his car, an Aston Martin. It was fairly personal. The only thing that caused any alarm was his affirmation that he "would bet an arm that Neymar would not go to Madrid". The second was more controversial. After beating Rayo, he sent a message to the media with it. "Many people have asked me why I do it (use Periscope)," he said. "I think mixed zones are great and always take my turn to attend the press because it's something I have to do. Obviously, the television companies pay to have post-match comments from players, the journalists are good people and we have to talk to them whatever happens but sometimes, you answer their questions and your comments are edited so they publish whatever they like. They only broadcast the words which interest them to sell more, get more page views. That's why I prefer to do it this way. You get all of the content, the questions and the answers and there's no problem or misunderstandings." The third was the most wild. In the aeroplane after beating Eibar. It went as he had announced, to Jordi Alba - "We're going to make a mess on the plane." And the mess... Mathieu, simulating smoking a cigarette, Mascherano saying he didn't wnat to be filmed because he was talking to his partner, Messi, not wanting to answer a question about the 100 goals of the MSN, and Pepe Cota, the man who looks after the players, telling him to stop filming.
What the fans would call fun, seeing the other side of the players, for the club is a problem. A problem with unpredictable consequences. There is total lack of control of what the players do and say on their social networks. There's no interneal rule over their use. And in the club, neither the executives or directors feel strong enough to stop the escalation led by some players. The only alternative would be regulation from the top, the LFP. Like they are already doing in the Premier LEague, the NBA and the NFL. Establishing some basic rules of behaviour with two clear parameters. While the platyer is under the club's rule the "business" of these networks should be controlled by the club, which is paying the players. Because the social networks are a business, when you have 12m followers, like Pique. And another thing is privacy. Players can do what they want, provided they do not harm the interests of the club. The LFP could copy what they do in the biggest leagues - the players must follow rules in their beahaviour and in their relationship with media and communication.
Pique started this round of Periscopes in a rebellious act against Madrid's media, accusing them of manipulation. But in the club there is fear that this game could get out of control. Because for now things are going well. Games are being won Barcelona are leading La Liga. But things may not always be like this. And the atmosphere in the dressing room could change. There could be internal conflict at some point - and this sort of thing would not be comfortable for the players if it was publicly exposed.
Everything indicates Pique will continue wth his Periscopes, even though he has not asked permission from the club to do them, or his twets. In this same week, he was also in the spotlight for exchanging some messages with Espanyol and a Pericos fan. And on more than one occasion he has hit back at Madrid media through his account. Dani Alves too is very active on Instagram. On that social network he fiercely attacked the media, accusing them of being "shit". An attack which the club had to disown with an official note. Without any regulation for now, Barcelona will only act when messages generate a serious conflict at institutional level. The situation is hot and not under control.