In the wake of Adam Johnson being found guilty of sexual activity with a minor, former Fulham manager Kit Symons has told the Evening Standard that while he was in charge of the London club, a social media professional was brought in to essentially catfish the Fulham players in order to point out how easy it is to be duped online.
'Catfishing' is the act of pretending to be someone else while interacting with others online, and the term was made well-known by an MTV reality TV show (unsuprisingly called 'Catfish') in which some very vulnerable and naive people hired the help of a man who himself was a victim of Catfishing to point out that they had been conned into an online relationship for various reasons.
It was all terribly awkward when they eventually met-up on the show, but we imagine it was just as awkward for the Fulham players that were caught out by their own club. The expert that was called in posed as a 16 year old female Fulham fan and went about trying to contact some of the club's players, and former manager Symons revealed that some of the younger players fell for the trap:
Some of the young players fell for it as real.
It was a short, sharp shock. You can tell lads about getting caught out and they’ll think ‘oh they won’t catch me’ and then that happens, they are caught.
You strive to make the club a reflection on your own values and if a player did something against those values you’d feel let down. Here are 30 lads you are a father to. You hope when they are away from the working environment that their decision-making is sound.
It was a bold move by the club, who perhaps set the standard for their wacky ways when Mohamed Al-Fayed decided to erect a statue to Michael Jackson outside of Craven Cottage, but it would have seriously hit home by embarrassing the players involved, and clearly if they fell for it, then it was needed.
The FA has made clear the availability of a spokesperson to make clear the code of conduct that applies to all English football clubs with recent events in mind, but Fulham have no need to take them up on that offer, clearly.