Thursday 23 November 2017

Transfer deadline day - What started in the European Commission is now a much-watched pantomime

Sky Sports reporter Bryan Swanson and the transfer 'totaliser'
Sky Sports reporter Bryan Swanson and the transfer 'totaliser'
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

It is ridiculed. It's over-the-top. It's in your face. It's transfer deadline day ladies and gentlemen and as easy as it is to dismiss, football followers around the world will be watching with anticipation.

Given the hype surrounding the day, fuelled by Sky Sports but enjoyed by the majority of football stakeholders despite public reservations by some managers, it is easy to forget why it was created in the first place.

A younger generation of football enthusiasts could be forgiven for thinking that the histrionics have always been part of the game. For them, there can be no grasping of the fact that a window can be closed, not necessarily slammed shut.

The window was in fact introduced in response to negotiations with the European Commission and issues surrounding employee welfare within the game. The system has been used in many European leagues before being brought into compulsory effect by FIFA during the 2002–03 season.

We are only a little more than a decade into the bi-annual shenanigans and yet it feels a staple part of the modern game.

Of course interest in transfer speculation is hardly a new phenomenon. Even when newspaper articles (far fewer it might be added) Teletext and radio phone-ins were the main source of who might be joining who, the appetite for rumours, as in life, takes hold of even the most level-headed supporter.

Will your club sign a Denis Irwin-like bargain? Or will a panic buy turn out to be a huge financial mistake? (Messrs Torres, Carroll and Robinho look away now).

Between live blogs, tweets, bulletins and rehashed stories, there is little escape. For those partial to a bit of Sky Sports News, then today is the day where one makes excuses over the nature of coverage for fear you might miss out on a deal. Heaven forbid you could find it on your Twitter feed, Facebook, smart phone or in traditional conversation.

If the 24 hours news station floats your boat, then there can be few arguments over the incessant hyperbole. This is a show like no other.

When the yellow ticker for breaking news was popularised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks (the first record of a news ticker was from NBC in 1952), few would have thought it would be rendered so mundane as to alert viewers to the fact that Tommy Craig had been sacked as manager of struggling Scottish Premier Division side St. Mirren. Even if the reign was surprisingly short at 19 games in charge. The yellow ticker is even incorporated as part of the wardrobe for the presenters and reporters on display.

Certain names and words are now etched into the brain for all things transfer window related. Jim White, Harry Redknapp, totaliser, "a club source", "we can reveal", Natalie Sawyer, "undisclosed".

The imagery is just as good. Redknapp rolling down a window to shed light on his targets, White talking a call on his phone live in studio, raucous fans making life hell for reporters outside a ground (sadly, now a thing of the past) even the sight of Darragh MacAnthony in the studio to give his thoughts on the wheeling-and-dealing that takes occurs.

As chairman of League One Peterborough football club, the Dubliner fills viewers in on the highs and lows of the transfer deadline day from a club perspective. He is often joined by Niall Quinn to boost the Irish presence.

"Our fax machine broke (while chairman of Sunderland) in the office and we got special dispensation to complete the transfer after the 11pm deadline," he recalled last year of the practical issues that can engulf a club on the final day of transfer business.

In January 2015, FIFPro said that the current transfer window system is "failing football and its players", but just try and tell that to media outlets throughout the world.

Enjoy the pantomime.

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