Jim White

Madness! Why players’ union is crazy to try and kill off transfer deadline day

Jim White

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Sky's Jim White and Natalie Sawyer

If Fifpro had its way, transfer deadline day would be a very different day.

Sure, it would still be raining.

But that rain wouldn’t be cascading down on the umbrella of the Sky Sports news reporter stuck outside the Etihad. Streams of water wouldn’t be drifting down the collar of Nick Collins as he stands outside Arsenal’s training ground. And the poor sap standing at the end of the drive outside Manchester United’s Carrington stable wouldn't be in danger of contracting pneumonia.

Because what the international players' union is lobbying for is an end to the transfer system. And with an end to the transfer system would come the end of transfer deadline day. Or rather TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY, as they are contractually obliged to call it at Sky.

What the players’ union would like instead is an approach to employment within the game no different to that enjoyed by the rest of the free world these days. Or at least that bit of the free world still in work.

It wants a system in which players can move between clubs with no more required of them than the kind of notice period applicable in any other profession. No need to slap in a transfer request. No need to instruct your agent to drip feed stories of your unhappiness to favoured tabloids. No need to bad mouth your employers on Twitter. If Fifpro get their way, all a player need do is tell his manager he is off to Madrid in three months and there will be nothing anyone can do to stop him.

It would be very good news for Wes Hoolahan, but rather a rather less appealing thought for my namesake at Sky Sports News, Jim White. Imagine what would happen to Jim if there was no transfers any more. After neatly carving himself a niche in the media world, Mr Transfer Deadline Day would find himself the television equivalent of a wheel-tapper, cooper, ice house builder or warrener, suddenly obsolete, marooned by a change in working practices.

No more would he be able to shout about his sources. No more would he be required to hand over to some sad sap of a reporter standing outside the Emirates surrounded by gurning drunks. No longer will he be needed to tell us the transfer window has now slammed shut (why is it, incidentally, that, in its decade-long existence, this particular opening has never closed with anything other than a slam?)

If Fifpro is successful - and the body has indicated it is prepared to take its case to the highest courts in Europe to remove the shackles from players - it will not just be the transfer business that finds itself superseded. Because if there is no more transfer market, there would be no more transfer deadline day, no more of the associated guff swirling around the business.

And what a bizarre thing it has now become, deadline day, a parasite growing fat on the main body of the game, the broadcasting equivalent of a barnacle. The live blogs, the internet parodies of Les Miserables’ One Day More, the endless sightings reported on Twitter of players looking in the windows of Prestbury estate agents: all gone.

As for the bloke who swears he knows someone who has just seen Peter Odemwingie filling up on diesel at Warwick services: no-one will be interested. Because transfer deadline day is frankly the only time anyone is remotely interested in Peter Odemwingie.

And in truth, Fifpro has a point. No other business conducts its employment transactions like football. In no other business is there so much noise around the movement of employees. There is no television equivalent of Jim White in his primrose coloured tie shouting about Hollywood’s movers and shakers. Twitter does not go into meltdown about the chief executive recently appointed by a FTSE 100 company.

Google the words “transfer deadline day” and one of the related products that comes up is “Clear all-day disposable lenses”. Which is about right: it is a sight to make sore eyes. In no other business is so much money expended on the simple process of recruiting staff: hundreds of millions a year.

If there was no longer a transfer market, everything would change in football. Chairmen couldn’t be accused of lacking ambition for not buying, managers would not be held to account by their mistaken dealings. There would be no more marquee signings, no statements of intent, no sending out a marker. Without the exigencies of the current way, Portsmouth would not have collapsed, Leeds would not have seen their dream turn into a nightmare. Goodness, Coventry might even still have been playing in Coventry.

But then, we'd miss out on all the deadline day fun. We wouldn’t spend more of the afternoon than is strictly necessary staring at Brian Swanson’s over-sized iPad. We wouldn’t be able to avoid getting down to work by wondering if Berbatov is going to Spurs, getting excited about the prospect of some ancient, creaking Swede arriving at Arsenal, doing cartwheels round Cardiff Bay at the prospect of Fabio signing for the Bluebirds.

Goodness, where would we be without it.

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