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Will Tidey - Kaka to Kettering: Transfer Gossip Rules the Web

Published: 19 May 2011 - 01:06:39

I blame you, the readers of football websites. You're addicted to it, you feed off it like ravenous paparazzi would a drunk, scantily-clad Pippa Middleton rolling out of Buckingham Palace at four in the morning. You've become so hungry for it that a right-minded editor can't possibly ignore it.

I'm talking about transfer gossip -- the relentless churning out of largely baseless rumours designed to titillate fans and bring prolific traffic to the myriad websites who rely on it.

It doesn't matter that you purport to be a newspaper of high integrity, delivering intelligent comment and highbrow insight to the beautiful game, you simply have to roll the rumours out. It would be commercial suicide not to.

And don't be surprised if the fantastical fodder you publish is read by 10 times the people who viewed the 1,000-word analysis of the tactical shift that's sweeping South American football.

Transfer speculation has become such a seismic source of traffic that entire websites are now devoted to it. Football writers who envisioned a career in the press box are instead spending their days cooped up in dark offices, scanning foreign websites for tenuous links between "the next Pele" and Chelsea. A good number of them aren't even getting paid for it.

When it comes to work experience, knocking out transfer rumours is the new photocopying.

You don't need much. Said player enjoyed his recent visit to England...link him to Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Said player said likes The Beatles...link him to Liverpool. Said players contract runs out in the summer...link him to every club in Europe.

And if you don't have time to do the detective work yourself, simply plug in the player's name to Google News along with the word "transfer" and you'll get everything you need in a matter of seconds. According to my research Kaka is off to Chelsea or Manchester City, or staying at Real Madrid this summer.

But what if I want to link him to Manchester United too? Easy, just search "Kaka to Manchester United" and straight away you've got a source to validate your piece. It's no surprise the article comes courtesy of caughtoffside.com, the undisputed champion pimps of transfer whoring.

Want to go further with it, why not link Kaka to Kettering. The justification, Kaka has hinted he might consider a move to England. Kettering are in England. Set it up and watch the traffic fly in on that one.

It's preposterous when you think about, and it's only going to get worse. As the Premier League season draws to a close this weekend editors are already planning new tactics to capitalise on the feeding frenzy that is the summer transfer window. Some will have running blogs every day of the week, highlighting every spurious rumour the second it drops.

When it comes to transfers, more is always more. "The Sun are linking Lady Gaga to Wolves...get it in the ticker and get an article up straight away," comes the request from the sports editor, as he vomits discreetly under his desk.

As a football writer I'm part of the problem. An American website pays me to turn out two transfers pieces a week and I'm yet to refuse on principal. It might kill a small part of my soul every time I do it , but it also feeds my children.

What makes it worse is that every time I'm researching my articles I end up visiting other transfer gossip articles, and thus increasing their traffic and the priority given to them by whoever the editor might be commissioning them. Perhaps it's not fans who are the problem after all -- it's football writers.

We need to work together to kill this horrible disease once and for all. We need to boycott transfer rumours this summer and send a message to editors everywhere that gossip is not we're after. We need to make a stand.

What's that you say? Ibrahimovic to Arsenal? Really? Send me the link immediately...

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey

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