Whilst many learned commentators are lamenting the socio-economic scandal that is the Transfer Window and fans are calling (in some cases justifiably) for the heads of their Board/Chief Executive/Sporting Director/Owners/Manager/Head Coach (delete all as are applicable) for delivering up another barren deadline day, I am left in simple bemusement.
I really do not know what to say any more about the absurdity of the Transfer Window and, in particular, deadline day.
My own personal experiences – without limitation – included being sworn at by a Premier League officer for having the audacity to point out the obvious flaws in his logic, told that there was no reason I could not make a drive of four hours in less than one, being asked if I had a proven (and ideally international class) centre forward who must be no older than 25 years old available on a free transfer who was not concerned about wages and discovering that another agent had spent the entire window lying to a club about the fact he did not represent a particular player at all (and they had not thought to ever verify the point, thus losing out on a deal they wanted to happen).
And that, I suspect, was a mild day compared to that experienced by many in the industry. One imagines that the agents for Ross Barkley, Alexis Sanchez, Oumar Niasse, Thomas Lemar – to name just four – would have far more colourful tales to tell. I was heartened by the comfort of knowing that, at least, Diafra Sakho’s agent got to watch his horse win at Chelmsford.
So of course it is the time not just to reflect, but to finger-point! Both the learned and the angry need to vent and, in many cases, demand to expose the true villains of the piece. So far this morning I have read agents blamed for the collapse of this deal, definitely to blame for the failure of that deal and without doubt culpable for the loss of that star player. Agents need to be banned some say; the less regulated online forums call for a more draconian form of justice.
“That I am left with the feeling, however, that a significant number of clubs went about their business with the finesse and vision of a Basil Fawlty seeking to expand his hotel empire is a source of frustration.”
Let me be clear; this is not a defence of agents. Many are individuals with no love for the game (some are quite prepared to admit that openly) and some are simply reprehensible human beings. But, guilty as a profession they are of many things, it is simply wrong to blame them for the woes of the Transfer Window. What struck me yesterday, more than ever before, is how so many football clubs – notwithstanding the fact that they boost a turnover which in any other industry would see them considered as a giant company – leave arguably their most important task (the recruitment and sale of football players) in the hands of people that are vastly out of their depth.
I was reminded this of an article I recently read about Google, who now own more than 200 companies but have sold countless more. When Google wishes to acquire or dispose of a company, the team of advisers appointed is extensive, the due diligence is onerous but efficiently undertaken and – if the decision is made to proceed – the deal is completed with ruthless professionalism. Where a desired deal does not complete, introspective investigation is undertaken and if people need to be held to account, they are. It is true that a number of clubs in this window – from the Premier League down to League Two – have gone about their business with the utmost professionalism and efficiency. Some are simply slick, fabulously run regimes.
That I am left with the feeling, however, that a significant number of clubs went about their business with the finesse and vision of a Basil Fawlty seeking to expand his hotel empire is a source of frustration.
There is simply so much wrong with our game as it is, but whereas the temptation is to blame the agents, players and governing bodies for their (admittedly bizarre) timings of windows that clash with international fixtures, one needs to begin by looking at how your club goes about its business and who it entrusts that fundamental responsibility too. Since it appears to me that some of the people one comes across, but for the privileged role they have been given by their employing football club, might struggle to better organise a small hotel in Torquay than Basil did. Worse still, some clubs of real size are still delegating the entirety of their transfer dealings to a ‘trusted’ agent. Preposterous.
And as for Diafra Sakho, let’s hope he placed a sizeable bet on his agent’s horse, which won on deadline day!