deadline day: show over substance

The Bluster and Bullshit Of Transfer Deadline Day

Sometimes, just sometimes, something magnificent happens on Transfer Deadline Day. Mostly, though, it’s about putting on an elaborate show.

by Will Magee
31 August 2016, 10:22pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.

It has often been said of Transfer Deadline Day that you never know what is going to happen. Jim White has said it repeatedly, so it must to some extent be true. Still, although probabilities suggests that, yes, anything can technically happen on any given day, the main thing that will happen on Transfer Deadline Day is, well, transfers. The earth could, of course, be wiped out by an asteroid, or the eruption of a supervolcano, or the immediate onset of nuclear war, but the likelihood is that the end of the transfer window will see a flurry of activity in the transfer market and, on a fundamental level, not much else.

That's not good enough for the people who market Transfer Deadline Day, however. In the era of round-the-clock reporting, there have to be constant stories, unceasing narratives. The Sky Sports studio must never fall silent, and the potential transfers must never end. Not until 11:00pm, at least, and even then there's plenty more reporting to do on last-minute business, moves that fell through and the transfers that somehow didn't quite come off.

See, on Transfer Deadline Day the stuff that doesn't happen is just as important as the stuff that does. The transfers that are briefly mooted, the betting odds that suddenly plummet, the moves that collapse at the final moment: these are all crucial to the pantomime performance of the transfer window's final day. The grinding of the proverbial rumour mill is endless, and social media feeds it with ever-more insubstantial chaff. The substance of the Deadline Day isn't important, at least not in comparison to the elaborate show.

READ MORE: What Really Happens To Jim White At The End Of Transfer Deadline Day?

This is why, on many levels, Transfer Deadline Day is essentially bullshit. It's great bullshit, mind, and quite entertaining, but bluster and bullshit nonetheless. That's not to say that Deadline Day is always a let down, nor that we should stop engaging with it. It's simply that, much like 'Super Sunday' and so many other football phenomena, it's as much about the pomp, pageantry and production values of the occasion as it is about delivering anything of actual note.

As is the case with all the best things in football, Transfer Deadline Day lives off its history. Sometimes, just sometimes, something magnificent happens, and provides the credibility on which future Deadline Days can be sold. There was Manchester United's last-minute capture of Dimitar Berbatov in 2008, Fernando Torres' acrimonious move to Chelsea in 2011, Arsenal's club record signing of Mesut Ozil in 2013; all of those were seminal moments, transfers which captured the collective imagination. More often than not, however, Deadline Day is a time for clubs and agents to finalise the last few details of a move, as opposed to the dramatic denouement of the summer's greatest transfer saga.

Indeed, for the majority of football fans, Deadline Day is a distant phenomenon. Most football clubs have already done their transfer business, leaving supporters with only vicarious pleasure as interesting moves develop elsewhere. For every club that acquires a player on Deadline Day, there are five or six who do absolutely nothing. What's more, there are many agents, owners and chairmen who have no intention of doing business so late in the window, even if they are happy to play along with the charade.

Most of the transfers that do take place of Deadline Day are, let's face it, of little interest to the majority of us. For every Berbatov, Torres and Ozil there are dozens of minor swap deals and lower-league loan moves. For every high-profile Premier League signing, there are hordes of players on their way to Norwich, or Rotherham, or Torquay United. Jim White and co. are tasked with spicing these announcements up but, in all honesty, the number of people watching Sky Sports for news of Burton Albion transfers can probably be counted on two hands.

That's the great illusion of Transfer Deadline Day, then. We're interested in the stuff that isn't happening, while genuine developments are usually boring as fuck. Occasionally, something brilliant takes place, and that holds our attention for another few years. Apart from that, it's all about the show. Oh, and the opportunity to remember that time when Alan Irwin had a purple dildo stuck in his ear.


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