Transfers: the six sources of information feeding the media

By Sir Hardly Anyone

The media story about summer transfers at Arsenal is not just that the club is interested in over 100 different players, but also that Arsenal is prone to making mistakes.   The media can see it, and the fans can see it (because the media tell them) and it leaves one wondering why the club doesn’t simply draw up a list of players that it is after, and then brings in a few journalists to tie up the deal.

Of course, one thing we know is that each summer the journalists’ predictions of who Arsenal are chasing are wildly inaccurate, although no journalist or publisher ever acknowledges the whole list of errors she or he has made through the summer’s reporting.

Instead, the implication is always that had the club acted more swiftly, or not been so penny-pinching Arsenal could have had a line-up to behold.  Indeed a line-up that would quite simply give Arsenal another title to add to the 13 already achieved.  If only those working at Arsenal weren’t so pathetic.

Of course, this is media gibberish, but where exactly do all these nonsense stories come from?  Here are six common routes…

1: Players’ agents

Player agents are one of the main sources of transfer rumours, for if the story starts circulating that Real Madrid are after an Arsenal player, that makes it a lot easier for the player’s agent to go to Arsenal and negotiate a pay rise or a whole new contract.

This of course also happens in reverse where it is suggested to Lille or Leverkusen or Lazio that Arsenal are after one of their players.  Such a story can quickly be circulated (since all the media copy the stories of other outlets, often starting their piece “According to…” followed by the name of a publication you have never heard of).  The agent of that player then goes to his club and says, “look it’s in the media across Europe – Arsenal are after him.   If you want to keep him happy he’ll need a pay rise, otherwise he’ll spend the season looking over his shoulder.”

2: Clubs invent transfer stories to hide the real ones

There is a lot to be said for clubs keeping a transfer story secret until the deal is signed.  Of course, it will probably break in the last few days as the medical is done and final arrangements are hammered out, (the old “spotted at the airport” tales) but before then there is every virtue in not having the transfer in the media.

Indeed quite often one finds that a transfer that does occur only reaches the media a day or so before the signing.

The benefit of the fake transfer is thus that the arrangements can be made in secret, without the player’s head (or his agent’s head) being turned by the thought of more money elsewhere.  Players and their agents know that most of the tales of money elsewhere are tittle-tattle.

3: Clubs invent stories to disrupt their rivals.

Clubs know that because of the activities of journalists, fans expect and demand transfers, even though there is absolutely no evidence that transfers automatically mean success the following season.   So it is not unknown for clubs to engage in rumour-mongering of their own, suggesting through a friendly journalist that player x from club y is being sought by club z.

The poor sap of a journalist thinks he is getting a scoop and so runs it, after which it appears everywhere else, but the tale is there just to disrupt the pre-season training of a rival.

4: Clubs invent stories as camouflage. 

Journalists can be quick to claim that a club is dithering or not even engaging in the transfer window properly.  So to counter this, clubs create their own rumours.   This is particularly so where they are keen to keep a real transfer story quiet, so they invent three or four others, feed them to compliant journalists who dutifully run them, and lay off the actual story.   Any journalist who breaks the silence over the actual tale is then barred from the club.

Indeed increasingly, actual transfers that happen, never emerge in the news until a day or two before the signing.

5: Clubs invent details of several rivals bidding for a player, to beef up the price.

Often clubs know that a player is going to leave, either because he wants a change or for more money, or because they no longer feel he is right for the club, or because his girlfriend is unhappy in the city and wants to move.   The best way to get the price up is to suggest a range of rivals who are bidding for the player.  That also of course raises the player’s profile.

6: Media that is based around transfers needs a constant flow of new tales

They need the stories so the media copy each other’s tales, and make up their own.  Since no one other than Untold points out how grossly inaccurate the tales are, this doesn’t really matter, and if anyone does point out that Arsenal missed out on 100 players they were chasing through the summer, the media has its explanation ready.  Arsenal were too slow.

Thus if you really want to know who Arsenal (or indeed anyone else) are about to sign, think of all the players no one is talking about!


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