It is an unavoidable fact that the January transfer window, and indeed any transfer window across the world of football, is littered with rumour, reports and mis-truths.
The transfer rumour mill has well and truly cranked into life now that the January transfer window has opened, rendering it almost impossible to differentiate fact from fiction.
Is Frank Lampard really heading to Manchester United? Are Tottenham and Liverpool really battling it out for Wesley Sneijder? Probably not, but that usually doesn’t tend to stop reports to the contrary.
Of course when it comes to perpetuating rumours, most people tend to think of the red tops as the worst offenders.
The likes of the Sun, the Mirror and the Daily Star all have terrible reputations when it comes to how people view the accuracy of their transfer reports, while most would be more believing if the same story appeared in a broadsheet like the Daily Telegraph.
But how realistic is that perception? Well, luckily for you dear reader GMF has got its hands on some quite telling statistics. Those kindly folk over at footballtransferleague.co.uk have been compiling stats on all the major British newspapers since the 2006 summer transfer window.
They’ve logged the quantity of stories produced as well as their accuracy when it comes to reporting transfer stories - and while it may not surprise you to see who is doing the best work, there are a few shocks lower down.
The Guardian is credited with being the most accurate newspaper when it comes to reporting new signings. Of 647 transfer stories reported in the Guardian since 2006, footballtransferleague.co.uk note that 221 were ultimately correct – a success rate of 34.2%.
So roughly speaking, the very best newspaper out there for reporting transfer stories accurately only get around one in three correct – something to make you think the next time you see your team written about next time in any newspaper.
The worst offenders are deemed to be free London-based paper Metro, who have got it right with just 11.6% of their stories; that equates to 83 correct stories out of over 700 published.
Elsewhere, the Independent fare well and come home as the second best rated English newspaper with 28.5% of their stories right (180 out of 631), while the Times and Daily Telegraph in a pretty similar situation.
What is interesting to note about where the Sun, the Mirror and the Star rank isn’t necessarily their position on the list in terms of accuracy (near the bottom) but the sheer amount of transfer stories they tend to produce.
In the six-year period logged by footballtransferleague.co.uk, the Daily Mirror are said to have come up with over 7000 transfer stories – over ten times more than the most accurate paper, the Guardian – while the Sun have published just shy of 4000 and the Star have produced 2330, much less than the Mirror but a vast quantity more than the leading publications.
Of course what this means is that papers like the Sun and the Mirror have actually produced more accurate transfer stories (862 and 1538 respectively) than the papers who have the best overall accuracy rating.
Or to put it another way, the red tops tend to take the approach that ‘if you throw enough muck some sticks’ while the likes of the Guardian and the Independent go for the less is more stance.
A writer from anyone one of these publications will rightly tell you that any transfer story they produce was correct at the time it was written and that when football transfers are involved, things are rarely black and white.
Saying, ‘Manchester United close in on Wilfried Zaha’ for example, doesn’t emphatically mean the move will happen. Things change and quickly in football, and what is right one day won’t necessarily be right the next. Then there are the agents looking to muddy the waters, which only serves to make the job even harder.
Equally most writers will cover themselves from using definitive language only to have a sensationalist headline pasted on at the top which will lure a reader in and insinuate something that the copy simply can’t back up. For these reasons, it is hard to condemn one paper or writer entirely.
But it is hard to ignore the headline statistics from footballtransferleague.co.uk and the general trend that newspapers get plenty more stories wrong than they do right – even the very best seem to get two thirds of their reporting wrong.
So with plenty more days left in the January transfer window, make sure you have a couple of particularly large pinches of salt with you. You’re going to need them.
Transfer Rumour Table
Paper - Right/Total (Accuracy)
The Guardian 221/647 (34.2)
Daily Record 191/561 (34%)
The Scotsman 8/28 (28.6%)
The Independent 180/631 (28.5%)
The Herald 23/81 (28.4%)
The Times 327/1199 (27.3%)
Daily Telegraph 176/655 (26.9%)
The Express 363/1457 (24.9%)
The Sun 862/3899 (22.1%)
Daily Star 507/2330 (21.8%)
Daily Mirror 1538/7255 (21.2%)
Daily Mail 921/4397 (20.9%)
News Of The World 286/1697 (16.9%)The People 131/893 (14.7%) Metro 83 717 11.6%