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Ronaldo dubbed best Facebook athlete
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Ronaldo dubbed best Facebook athlete - 12-March-2011, 21:40

Ronaldo dubbed best Facebook athlete
Friday, March 11 2011, 18:45 GMT
By Andrew Laughlin,

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is the most social media savvy sports star, but Wayne Rooney is getting it all wrong, a panel of experts has claimed.

Today at the third annual Global Sports Forum in Barcelona, Facebook's head of international business development Christian Hernandez and rugby star Jonah Lomu discussed the benefits and pitfalls of social networking in sport.

Various sporting stars now use Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with fans, but it is not always a harmonious endeavour. In January, former Liverpool player Ryan Babel was handed a charge by the Football Association for posting a mocked-up picture on Twitter of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt after Liverpool's 1-0 defeat to United in the FA Cup.

Hernandez said that former Manchester United player Ronaldo is the most digital-savvy athlete, but he feels that sportsmen and women would rather be more bold in their approach to social media.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is the best athlete at self-marketing on social networks. Everyone remembers the shock created by him publishing the first photo of his child on Facebook," said Hernandez.

"Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United are by far the best clubs at using social networking. Their fans are responding very well. In contrast, I know there is some tension between Premier League players, clubs and the FA. Players would like to be free to express themselves but recent stories have shown that they can't be."

Hernandez also criticised sporting stars like Wayne Rooney who get ghostwriters or members of their management team to post messages on social networks, arguing that this fails to truly engage with the fans.

"Those who use Facebook poorly are those athletes who do not manage their presence themselves - it's as simple as that. For example, Wayne Rooney - it's just not what you would want to hear as a fan," he said.

Lomu, who is an active user of social networks, said that posting messages on Facebook and Twitter is a great way to satisfy the fan's interest in what their idols are doing.

"I have a special relationship with social networks. I sleep very little - maybe one and a half hours a night - and I'm connected 24/7. Fans always want to know more about you and it seems normal to satisfy them. This brings my audience closer," he said.

"I think athletes should manage their own pages themselves. You feel the difference when it is an agent who does it for them, it disappoints the fans. I decided to open my accounts to everyone. I post almost everything about my life. It's a personal choice, but I'm proud of my fiance and my children, proud to share my family photos with my fans."

Lomu added: "Sponsors sometimes ask athletes to promote their products - I do not need anyone to ask me, as for me it seems normal. It is part of the game. Sometimes I receive criticism but now I can answer people and give my own point of view."

Also at the Global Sports Forum, a new study revealed that sporting clubs and events are struggling to harness the power of social networking. The report showed that only 15% of fans visit the official Facebook page of their team, and only 9% follow clubs or athletes via Twitter.

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