The Fake Transfer Rumour has a story arc all its own.
A phenomenon unique to the Internet Age (although it’s certainly possible various club “sources” enjoyed releasing false rumours to the press before the World Wide Web), the art of the Transfer Hoax was perfected a few years ago when ace blogger Fredorrarci revealed that a Moldovan striker named Masal Bugduv linked with Arsenal did not, in fact, exist.
This pertinent biographical detail didn’t emerge before various mainstream publications including Goal.com, When Saturday Comes, and the Times of London listed him as one of Europe’s leading young stars. Bugduv wasn’t merely fictitious; he was a work of art; he had his own Wikipedia entries, fake AP reports, and a delightfully allegorical Irish name. The hoax had a beginning, middle, and end, and a rich lesson for newspapers eager to best each other to the latest major transfer window rumour.
This took place before the Twitter Age, which not only accelerated the tabloid race to reprint the latest entirely unsubstantiated transfer rumour, but provides an steady platform for fraudsters to release various turdlets of transfer bullshit to a wider and increasingly gullible public. When Reddit faked a rumour that Michael Owen would be joining Bolton, they mostly relied on forum comment pages referencing sources within clubs that didn’t exist. Their target however was the press, not fans.
Some hoaxsters however were content to cut out the middle man, and Twitter provided the perfect medium. This morning, news emerged that a Twitter account by the name of @FootballAgent49 that at one point enjoyed 43,000 followers did not, in fact, belong to a football agent in the know, but an 18-year-old manchild determined to spread as much false transfer information as he could. While he gleefully noted that his rumours made the Daily Mail, his target seemed to be his army of readers who believed him to be more reliable than “Sky Sports News and the BBC.”
It would be easy to tut-tut over anyone who would accept on face value rumours from an anonymous and unverified Twitter account. But all transfer rumours, even rumours based on something vaguely resembling reality, deal in fantasy (or fakery if you’re more inclined to cynicism). I personally have never understood the appeal of the transfer rumour, which pervades pretty much every football section and website in Europe and elsewhere, but I suspect it has something to do with the ecstasy that comes with hope in an unrealized-but-possible, and depending on the quality of the rumour, probable future.
Reading some breathless rumour, fans wonder, “Could you imagine X player at Y club?” Suddenly their starting XI has improved, and with it—faintly, tangentially—their club’s chances of winning something. And so we want to believe. When the fantasy does come true and Robin van Persie slips on a Man United shirt, ousting Wayne Rooney from the starting line-up, the payoff is enormous. This really happened. I was right to believe. Dreams really do come true.
Taking advantage of that fantastical thinking isn’t exactly difficult, especially when you bypass a barely ethical press to directly prey on football fans. It isn’t subversive; it’s just old fashioned assholery.