Although they didn't make the finals this season, the Melbourne Football Club is aiming to become a leader among professional sports teams in the use of social media.
Melbourne CEO Cameron Schwab said 12 players plus president Jim Stynes are Twitter users. The club doesn't vet players' tweets: "We want players to be real," he said.
Asked about the outcomes of this policy, he said "It's been better than I expected." The club is also experimenting with displaying tweets from spectators on the scoreboard during matches.
Schwab himself has experimented with a live Ustream broadcast from the ground.
Like other AFL teams, the Demons are unable to identify regular spectators who aren't club members because ticket sales are outsourced. The club intends to overcome this and improve spectator relations by using social media. The plan is to encourage conversations between the club and its spectators, leaving aside any marketing considerations until the relationships have been established.
Although Melbourne has the oldest supporter base in the competition, it is experiencing the biggest take-up of social media with around 20,000 followers in aggregate, Schwab stated.
The club's forums are monitored in order to correct any inaccurate information posted by visitors, and also to ensure disagreements do not get out of hand.
"In a couple of years we will be seen as absolute leaders" in the use of technology, predicted Schwab.