With each passing year Sky’s coverage of ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ seems to get bigger, more preposterous and above all peculiar. Peculiar in that ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ is now marketed and sold as its own event. That in itself is alarming, as it’s very hard to reconcile the basic premise of what ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ is with its artificial new reality. The reality is a twenty-four hour sports news channel has proliferated something which asks you to watch footballers and their agents, over a period of several hours, arrive at a training ground, mill around inside and then exit in a black windowed Range Rover. All of this is shot from a distance outside of the boundaries of said training ground – so you see very little – while a collection of ghastly second rate journalists, all likely to be BBC rejects, talk uninformed nonsense to fill the time over said pictures. We hear of medicals, negotiations between clubs, players and agents that may or may not have been completed.
Again, just to reiterate, this is entertainment, an event which people elect to watch, for entertainment. Or is it? It’s both mesmeric and macabre watching the real deadheads, Sky calls them fans, arrive outside the training ground to wait (for Godot?) for news of deals made by their club. It begs the question why they wouldn’t just watch it on the telly? Now granted if they didn’t we wouldn’t be treated to the occasional incomprehensible gem, like the fella in Stoke rolling up a ciggie just behind the reporter’s shoulder on deadline day last summer. Yeah, I know, you had to be there.
But that requires watching. And that puts you at serious risk of brain damage. The question then becomes why would you watch it? There’s the chance of mild comedy in the style of reportage, most of which will likely involve a certain Jim White. Even he’s given a build up. Last year a clock counted down until it was his time to host the show, and he was filmed arriving at Sky’s premises hours before. At least the presenters on air adopted a sarcastic tone in their commentary of this ‘arrival’; mocking Jimbo, themselves and how ridiculous their job and this whole thing was. We then saw Jim looking focused as he swept through the lobby, trawling the messages on his mobile to see what information his contacts had left for him, or much more likely it was his company for the night complaining about the hotel room she’d been put up in. I remember Jimbo from his days on STV (Scotland’s version of ITV) and to see him now, compared to then, is quite a contrast. His delivery was always effervescent, but now his complexion suggests he’s one line of cocaine away from an aneurysm, and he talks as if caffeine is being pumped intravenously into his blood stream.
On a more serious point Sky are using this as a platform to extort the desperation of fans. If you’re watching this muck invariably your club is involved in the ‘action’, or it should be, and that’s not really a good thing, is it? You’re more likely to dread an addition to the bane of epileptics everywhere, the hideously bright yellow breaking news bar, than not. Dread as in it’s likely to be some other club doing business as your lot do nothing. You’re sceptical of good news arriving by this stage, as it probably means your club failed to get its first choice target in June or July and is left scrapping for what’s left as the hours and minutes wind down. Near the end that means being told what your club is or isn’t doing by Jim White, being Jim White. It’s no fun to see Jim White attempting to read an autocue quicker than it’s rolling, in an orgasmic tone, for forty-five seconds at a time. This is how your last vestige of hope is suffocated.
Don’t worry, there are other attractions and distractions; ‘Arry will of course make an appearance. He’s no longer prime time, he’s only Championship budget ‘Arry now, so they’ll probably try and fail to do an ironic Steptoe parody of the parody they’ve helped him become. No doubt god’s gift to twenty-four hour sports news channels, him of the coat that is shit, will feature heavily, giving his opinion on something irrelevant or self serving. A sociopath’s gotta do whatever it takes to get his daily quota of attention, I suppose. There’s Kirsty Gallacher’s resplendent cleavage, no doubt that’ll be given a prime time slot too. The litany of other female presenters, usually blonde, all look alike that I couldn’t pick one of them out of a line-up, though I’d surely pick one, so there’s that. Will the transfer gimp make an appearance this year? They’ll cut to that ridiculous looking fella in the north east several times, him with the fuck off teeth, who always manages to look like a hostage reading out a list of demands. Then there’s that village idiot with ‘The Totaliser’, which is a truly vulgar nod to Sky and the Premier League’s obsession with money. Your money. As it funds all these transfer deals, either directly (club merchandising, match day revenue) or indirectly (club sponsorship deals of the products which you buy – one of which is Sky). So you’re given a constant reminder, in HD, on a 35 inch touch screen (hey aspiration) of how much of this cash is being wasted on (mostly) mediocre players, grasping agents and Sky’s production costs of covering a made up event which propagates it.
The actual message in all this is very straightforward; every year the Premier League gets bigger, richer and clubs spend more money every summer on transfers, and that this is great, greed is great. To paraphrase Jonathan Meades, Sky’s Transfer Deadline Day ‘is nothing more than a showcase of bravura vanity’. Despite all of this money the Premier League has reached a nadir in its overall level of talent and excitement since its inception. The way Sky self promotes its wealth and that of its dependents on deadline day is reminiscent of those ghastly Derivatives shifting banker types before the crash – they brazenly give off the impression that they’re untouchable, and that they can continue to sell an overpriced mediocre product without any consequences. The frightening thing is that in this instance they may be right.
And why do I say that? Because I’ll be watching it again this year. After all, misery loves company.