Revealed! Why the media publish so many misleading transfer stories

By Tony Attwood

In one sense it is fairly obvious why the media in all its forms run the endless transfer rumours during the summer: there is not too much else to write about.

We’re in a situation during the season where the fact that games are either being played or have just been played or are about the be played every day of the week.  So by using the notion that the entire well being of a club and its players and manager can be ascertained from the simple expedient of looking at the last match, or half the last match or even the last five minutes of the last match we’re all on the edge all the time.

Also we are in a constant dumbing down process, where detail, evidence, background and analysis are irrelevant.  Thus when a correspondent on Untold wrote in and said that Giroud had to go because of the goals he missed last season, there was no analysis, comparison or anything.  Giroud had missed the chances and that was enough.  The writer didn’t say “FACT” but he could well have done.

In such a world the papers and the blogs have to survive.  Untold survives perfectly ok because we have so many topics we can touch on – referees, analyses, youth players, FFP, economics, corruption etc etc – and that is all before we get to the team and the game.

But many newspapers and blogs that dumb down to the lowest level get a bit stuck.  So they run the transfer gibberish.

However hidden behind this reasoning is something else.  They are not just filling up space for people with nothing better to read.  They are also building up their store of blame and attacks for the season.  Wenger bought x and we told him to buy y – that’s why Arsenal let in that goal.  Wenger didn’t buy z because he is slow and won’t spend money – Arsenal should have bought him, Wenger to blame.

Reality, and the real chance of a player moving to us is tiny, compared to the vast number of rumours that circulate and then are quietly forgotten.  Indeed it would be fun to publish in September a list of all the transfer rumours that each paper has run.

But they even have a defence to this ploy – it isn’t our rumour they would say.  Look we said it appeared in the Metro (who then quote some Spanish paper no one has ever heard of).

Some of the stories indeed are really quite odd.  Eduardo Vargas who played on loan with QPR last season?  Well, maybe Wenger sees something tucked away therein which Napoli and QPR couldn’t discern, and which has emerged while he plays for Chile – but Wenger rarely works in this way.

But The Metro, for it is they, says Vargas to Arsenal for a whopping £11.3 million.  And The Daily Star bastion of intellectualism and firm judgement says is William Carvalho from Sporting Lisbon.  But Man U are interested, so we are set for an “Arsenal have missed out” story – although it is quite likely Wenger never saw him fitting into the team.

Never mind here is another one to beat the boss with: “Arsenal are ready to beat Roma to the signing of Egyptian striker Ramadan Sobhy, reveals” – oh my goodness its The Metro.

The Telegraph says he’s been dubbed “the best young player in Africa” but interestingly, while they tell us which paper is saying he will move, they are not telling us who called him “the best young player”.  Maybe they made it up.

And then we come to yesterday’s rumours repeated today because, well, they want to cover every possibility, and there is no end to the number of times one can hit Arsene Wenger for being slow and thrifty.   “Arsenal are also reportedly lining up a double swoop for German brothers Lars and Sven Bender as they turn their attentions away from Arturo Vidal and Morgan Schneiderlin.”

Now the Vidal / Schneiderlin story is being presented in several quarters as Arsenal being interested but then losing interest.  The notion that Wenger is undecided, weak, unsure, unable to act.  If you believe it, well fair enough, but I think it is more than likely that along with all other managers he draws up a list of players who could fit into the team and enhance what we have, and he stays with it.  The transfer window is not a time for chopping and changing, unless, suddenly, unexpectedly, a player who should not become available does.

This was the case with Patrick Vieira all those years ago.  Wenger wasn’t even in England, but apparently phoned the club and said, “Buy him now” and they did.  But mostly, no.

No one has been spotted at the airport today as far as I know, so attention turns to non-UK airspace.  Lukas Podolski has been pictured in Turkey ahead of a reported move to Galatasaray.

In case you are interested if you are out and about in Northamptonshire this afternoon Tony Attwood could be spotted near the Grand Union Canal.  I’m not sure that will actually mean I am going to play for Long Buckby Wharf FC however.

Transfer rumours are a space filler and a preparation of the garbage to be thrown later, that’s all.

  • 1 July 2014: The start of Arsenal’s £170m partnership with Puma, which at the time was the most lucrative kit deal in English football history.  In its opening video promoting its interest in and respect of Arsenal’s history, the company focussed on the cover of the novel “Making the Arsenal”.  Which rather pleased the publisher of Untold Arsenal.

35 Replies to “Revealed! Why the media publish so many misleading transfer stories”

  1. Commenting on a Times of London newspaper ‘leader column’, the late Sir Winston Churchill said:

    ‘The Times has nothing to say and has used a 1,000 words to tell us this.’

    If The Times can use a 1,000 words to say ‘nothing’, it follows that the rest of the media can do it.

  2. Clicks mean cash. Not only are most transfer rumours totally made up, they are then repeated with a different headline. In that way certain websites, who in reality have nothing much to say, get unsuspecting surfers to click on their headline. They can then show advertisers their site statistics and then make money through adverts. It is ONLY economic and has nothing to do with football reality. This transfer window it is so blatant that it beggars belief. Oh for football blogs with something factual to say.

  3. A number of stories come from agents who try to promote their clients profiles by either revealing fake stories or hyping what little contact they’ve had with clubs.
    There are also strategic leaks that come from the clubs themselves. Club A will feign interest in a player to drive up the value so Club B has to pay more. Clubs also use interest in one player as a smokescreen so they can negotiate quietly with another.
    Many leaks just come from journalists who look at a team needs, see which players are available, and then try and link the two. 9 times out of 10 there is no link.
    There is the occasional leak or a scout is spotted watching a match, but this can by suspect as well.

  4. Anyone with a memory should surely have picked up on the repetative nature to transfer “news” stories.

    “Arsenal are preparing a bid to sign . Arsene Wenger wants to address the weakness in and feels the man can fill the role perfectly.

    Reports suggest that want £xx.x million for , but that might prove to be too much for Wenger who also has his eye on

    After making a statement in buying Petr Cech for £11 million from Chelsea, Arsenal will be looking to dip into the market for a defensive midfielder and striker so that they overhaul Manchester City and Chelsea to win the title next season”

  5. Colario

    I had not read/heard that before about Churchill, but isn`t it totally in keeping with what Tony has just written
    Thanks Tony, nothing is going to change though until we change and don`t buy the distributors of rubbish by either clicking on, or buying their periodicals
    Many years ago on the way back from a game at Highbury, at Harlow station some wag had written ” I`d rather read a paper than the Sun”
    Gave me a good laugh, if we all applied that rule, Murdoch would have lost money and a crappy paper would have changed its journalism
    Don`t hold your breath though

  6. Anyone with a memory should surely have picked up on the repetative nature to transfer “news” stories.

    “Arsenal are preparing a bid to sign [insert player name >. Arsene Wenger wants to address the weakness in [insert position> and feels the [insert weekly wage> man can fill the role perfectly.

    Reports suggest that want £xx.x million for [insert player name>, but that might prove to be too much for Wenger who also has his eye on [insert similar player name(s)>

    After making a statement in buying Petr Cech for £11 million from Chelsea, Arsenal will be looking to dip into the market for a defensive midfielder and striker so that they overhaul Manchester City and Chelsea to win the title next season”

    Apparently untold didnt like the stuff wrapped with a > and <

  7. REVEALED! Why Untold Arsenal use misleading headlines to sucker Arsenal fans into reading their nonsense! “It’s because we think we can get away with it if we say it was meant to be funny”, said an old dog trying out new tricks.

  8. ‘Oohtobeagooner’
    They are the worst culprits for printing misleading crap, don’t click on their links and give them what they want.

  9. He said /she said …

    One day a man decided to retire…
    He booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life, that is, until the ship sank.
    He soon found himself on an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing, only bananas and coconuts.
    After about four months, he is lying on the beach one day when the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen rows up to the shore.

    In disbelief, he asks, “Where did you come from?

    She replies, “I rowed over from the other side of the island where I landed when my cruise ship sank.”

    “Amazing, ” he notes. “You were really lucky to have a row boat wash up with you.”

    “Oh, this thing?” explains the woman. “I made the boat out of some raw material I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum tree branches. I wove the bottom from palm tree branches, and the sides
    and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree. ”

    “But, where did you get the tools? ”

    “Oh, that was no problem, ” replied the woman.
    “On the South side of the island, a very unusual stratum of alluvial rock is exposed. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted intoductile iron I used that to make tools and used the tools to make the hardware. ”

    The guy is stunned.

    “Let’s row over to my place, ” she says.

    So, after a short time of rowing, she soon docks the boat at a small wharf. As the man looks to shore, he nearly falls off the boat. Before him is a long stone walk leading to a cabin and tree house.

    While the woman ties up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man can only stare ahead, dumb struck. As they walk into the house, she says casually, “It’s not much, but I call it home. Sit down, please. Would you like a drink?”

    “No! No thank you,” the man blurts out, still dazed.
    “I can’t take another drop of coconut juice.”
    “It’s not coconut juice,” winks the woman.
    “I have a still. How would you like a Tropical Spritz?”

    Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepts, and they sit down on her couch to talk.
    After they exchange their individual survival stories, the woman announces, “I’m going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There’s a razor in the bathroom cabinet upstairs. ”
    No longer questioning anything, the man goes upstairs into the bathroom. There, in the cabinet is a razor made from a piece of tortoise bone. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge are fastened on to its end inside a swivel mechanism.

    “This woman is amazing,” he muses. “What’s next?”
    When he returns, she greets him wearing nothing but some small flowers on tiny vines, each strategically positioned. She smelled faintly of gardenias.
    She then beckons for him to sit down next to her.

    “Tell me,” she begins suggestively, slithering closer to him,”We’ve both been out here for many months. You must have been lonely.. When was the last time you played around?” She stares into his eyes.

    He can’t believe what he’s hearing. “You mean…” he swallows excitedly as tears start to form in his eyes,
    “You’ve built a Golf Course?!”

  10. And lets not forget the papers last summer criticising Mr Wenger for playing beach volley ball at the World Cup when he should have been buying players …

    but then somehow Alexi Sanchez arrived. Don’t you just love the British press !

  11. ” Seek the truth , or hide your head in the sand .
    Both require digging .”
    Andrew Nolan.

  12. Tony, a very well thought out article.

    I can’t add much to it as I don’t open the “sucker” headlines and don’t bother with any of the known aaaa blogs – together that eliminates quite a lot of the rubbish, conjecture, lies and twisted “journalism”!

  13. @Terry White

    The blog reminded me of the Churchill quote.

    In turn your ‘Sun’ reference reminds me of the time when I was in a newspaper shop talking to the shop assistant (who was a friend of mine) when a man came in a picked up a copy of the ‘Sun’.

    I could not resist saying to my friend.

    ‘I don’t know why people by the Sun there is no news it.’

    He shuddered and literally stammered:

    ‘I don’t by it for the news I buy it for the jokes.’

  14. Arsenal, like most PL clubs, research possible transfer targets for years; when a target becomes available they make their move, if it all fits.

    I have this information via conversations with some of the very high ranking Arsenal scouts.

    Would you seriously expect a different process.

  15. Great article. Personally, I have never forgiven Wenger for not signing lorik Cana. The press said he was a done deal for us…..and just look at the career of this player to show us what Wengers dithering has lost us!

  16. I looked at the Wikipedia article on Lorik Cana, and it says that Arsenal invited him, but he couldn’t get a visa. But I had never heard of him before, so I don’t know if this is what you are referring to.

    I did see this in the article as well:

    > On 12 September 2007, he was sent off by referee Mike Riley in the 87th minute of Albania’s home game against the Netherlands, after an altercation with Wesley Sneijder and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    So, perhaps he should have come to Arsenal? 🙂

  17. Yes Cana, just being a bit mischievous Gord. The press and AAA were all over Cana for Arsenal…..the player to fill the Vieira position etc. didn’t know about the work permit, think that has blighted more than a few Wenger targets, including a young angel Di Maria. But back to Cana, he did very little before, or since the Arsenal hype, just got a few red cards. IF Wenger really was interested, think he dodged a bullet with this player!

  18. Mandy Dodd

    I’m convinced that you’re Tony Attwood’s alter ego. It’s not unknown for bloggers to create a fake commenter to boost their popularity and leave favourable comments, and you are the complete mirror image of Tony. It’s as if you’re his twin, and being “female” gives you protection from unpleasantness.
    The more I consider it the more convinced I’ve become. You are Tony Attwood.

  19. The transfer sagas have the added attraction for the media that they’re all about buying and selling and money. The stuff that we’re all encouraged to be most interested in. Not getting a young player or even an older player and making them better. Not building a team.

    But I just don’t get what is interesting about following all these stories nearly all of which will turn out not to be true. Yet thousands do follow them and spend hours talking about them as well.

  20. Thank you for the compliment Masterstroke, Tony Attwood does not seem a blogger that would ever have to resort to such things, why would he?

  21. I would add, I am sure Tony, myself and many regular posters on here get a lot of unpleasantness, but usually it is moderated out. Since when has being female stopped unpleasantness anyway?

  22. Masterstroke

    There are utilities on CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network) designed to allow for statistical analysis of text. Among other things, they allow for the generation of gibberish which has the same statistical properties as some “corpus”.

    Mandy doesn’t write as much as Tony, but there should be enough data for both Mandy and Tony to come up with a corpus for both of them. You could then generate random text from the Mandy Corpus, followed by random text from the Tony Corpus. You would then compare to statistics of the two random text (same length) many times, via a T test. You could easily convince yourself (and produce statistical evidence to an almost arbitrary confidence level) as to whether they are the same or different.

    I don’t know a lot about Python, but it would be reasonable to expect similar capabilities to be found in public Python libraries. It is possible one could do this in R (a FOSS implementation of the S language), but I don’t know much about R.

  23. Gord , sounds like some great tools out there, and I would welcome analysis. But I would add, I make a lot more spelling mistakes than Tony Attwood!

  24. Media being misleading

    There was a story in the news, which apparently was first published in a German language newspaper (and of course Reuters can’t figure out how to properly attribute the source), but apparently Septic Bladder still thinks he is an angel, and when he dies he will go to heaven. And he claims he is completely pure, and could never be convicted of corruption (which is why he is going to Canada to watch the Womens World Cup 2015, NOT!). And that everyone who suggests he is corrupt, when it is other corruption in FIFA (that he still can’t get out) should themselves go to jail for suggesting he is the problem. If the CEO is clean, but the organization is corrupt, the buck stops somewhere. Guilt by position.

    In any event, FIFA needs to be rebuilt. One thing they should do, is to require people doing commentary on broadcasts of games to actually know the laws of the game, and to have passed a test of being a useful muppet (sorry, I actually meant pundit).

    But the commentary by TSN (in Canada) of the WWC 2015 is completely useless.

    If FIFA is going to force museums on the site of games to shut down for commercial reasons, surely they can force their media partners to have “useful” muppets (sorry, I actually meant pundits) to provide background noise for those of us who need background noise to watch a football game.

  25. Mandy

    Facebook, twitter and a zillion other things are at some point going to surprise everyone, in a hugely negative way.

    Example. Schoolboard decides to make a hard policy on plagiarism. They look for facebook entries for all of their students starting at the first grade. Third grade teacher suspects plagiarism (copying) on an assignment. Runs the assignment against statistics of the Facebook page since first grade. Finds plagiarism and fails the student on the assignment.

  26. Mandy…..I have no doubt that you are Tony’s evil twin sister he never had. Masterstroke is taking too many strokes and has grown hair on his palms!!!

  27. What’s this about Churchill? Is he going to insure our players against injury? Well Churchill is supposed to be the dogs bollocks!!

  28. whereas in the past a sports journalist would earn his living on his knowledge and trust within the sport he represents. Over a period of time many hacks stabbed footballers and sportsman in the back, cutting off the hand that fed them.
    Now their information from the clubs is stage managed and non-exclusive.
    If you add to that papers are now a slow medium in a world where everyone wants fast news, in effect blogs,twitter etc will find out information and share it long before the hacks get there hands on it.
    nowadays they are no longer “ITK” and so have to use a shotgun approach to try and remain with any credability. Quite simply if they fire enough shots they are gonna hit something eventually.
    Once a storey is produced they then need their friends on other medium such as radio to give it credability and so myths are born and continued. That is why mythical players can be produced and stories about coaching methods etc can be taken as fact by the ignorent who believe all or most the press tells them. Unfortunatly this is not just the case in sport but in all walks of life.

  29. In these days of online reporting, what seems to matter is new, not news. They just have to keep feeding the beast. It doesn’t matter if it is truthful or not, just that they can write about it.

    We are in an era where the tabloid media generate news rather than report on it. A good idea can stretch into multiple articles.

    I still remember on the day of the Bayern away game in 2013, the Mail managed to produce something like 6 articles on the day simply about the possible team, all feeding on each other.

    Start with the unfounded speculation that Arsene was going to play a weakened team, then a second built on pundit reactions to that idea, then an incorrect article about fans not flying to the game based on their earlier story, than another piece based on reactions to that story, and so on….Thats before they actually get to report on the match itself.

    All just to feed the insatiable need to produce something new. When it is done, they move onto something new. They don’t care if they are right or wrong unless there might be legal consequences then the article vanishes as it was ‘malreported’.

    Its why reading sports blogs is infinitely better, simply because the writers still care about their subjects.

    NOTE, I’m not including all tabloid hacks in the above, just a disturbingly large proportion of them.

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