There's much misinformation – agent Rachel Anderson
January sees the opening of the football transfer window, with clubs looking to sign replacements for injured players, boost title or promotion pushes or increase their chances of staving off relegation.
The media goes mad for the rumour mill while fans around the world avidly chew up every single nugget of information, Sky Sports News provide, making the entire month into an event and clubs deciding whether to stick or twist with so much at stake.
Sports agents have been much maligned over the years, criticised for taking money out of the game without adding value and unsettling players or prompting speculation through the media when they want another payday.
Of course, the reality is not so cut and dried.
Most bona fide agents act like surrogate family for their clients, helping not only with financial and contractual matters but also with personal administration and a plethora of other problems that might arise.
So has the advent of 24/7 rolling news and social media made a huge difference to the world of player transfers, or just given clubs and agents a wider platform to share information?
Leading agent Rachel Anderson explains: “There is so much misinformation in football. A lot of media are trying to sell papers just as much as some agents may feed stories to create more interest in a player.
“We have seen examples of big money transfers last summer just to create attention. Raheem Sterling’s agent was creating noise around his player because getting a move was going to be more lucrative than a new contract that was on the table.
“It was an example of not how to promote your client or yourself and if Sterling had got injured, it would have created a really difficult situation. The way it was done was not a good reflection on sports agents.
“The best deals are quiet until the transfer is signed and sealed and do not alienate the rest of the world. Agents have to remember that football is a small world and they will have to go back to that club again.”
The situation hasn’t been helped by changes in regulations brought in by FIFA as Anderson explains: “FIFA decided that they would not or could not police the wrongdoings of some agents. They decided to do away with the agent licence which has turned it into the wild west where anyone can call themselves an agent and mess up the careers of young players.
“Some agents feel that they do not need to answer to anyone which is a shame. If you’re only in it for money and don’t have the experience, there are fewer consequences for your actions and that has created problems. That’s why I joined the AFA, the Association of Football Agents, which has been a very beneficial organisation for agents. When we challenge what FIFA has done, we have done it for the benefit of agents large and small.”
These days, clubs keep a far tighter control over information and speculation, using their own resources such as the club websites and social media platforms to share interviews and news without giving the wider media as much access as they once enjoyed.
But Anderson believes that the clubs have gone too far. She added: “You can’t work without the media, which can make or break you. Clubs need to advise players so that they remain ‘on message’ but are still able to speak to journalists, so that it can continue to work well.
“That may prevent some of the groundless speculation that the media encourages. After all, broadcasters such as Sky and BT are funding football and yet they rely on so much speculation.
“They often don’t have a lot to say and are just counting down a clock but they don’t have revelations until everyone knows. There are people queuing up to volunteer information, often misinformation.
“Rarely do you get good quality interviews with club owners, management and players in the way that used to happen.”
The shrinking of traditional media also means much of the transfer tittle-tattle which dominates the news agenda is unverified and so more of it has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Anderson commented: “The news moves almost too fast without substance. Journalists are spread too thinly because traditional media budgets have been cut and they don’t know enough about a number of clubs. There is a lot of misinformation – short quick articles and soundbites that are taken as gospel.
“I still have some journalists that I trust and you know that they will report it the way that I have asked them to, which is fairly and honestly. You have to understand that the news has to be interesting and newsworthy.
“Clubs, agents and the players need to get a better understanding of the media so that they can build trust while PRs at clubs, sponsors and agencies need to understand what is newsworthy and how to conduct themselves in the fishbowl of footballing life."