FORGET the digital world of 4G, iPads, robots, and drones.
Because many football clubs still use a Window to the past when it matters most – on transfer deadline day.
Fax machines ruled the workplace before the internet age, and they still reign for at least ONE day of the year in many football offices, up and down the divisions, far and wide in Europe, when the rush is on to sign players.
Why is the fax machine still used on transfer deadline day?
A rising majority of Premier League deals in the past five years have been done by an electronic fax – mainly a PDF file attached to an email – while Fifa has brought in the Transfer Matching System (TMS) for international deals.
But many football managers, chairman and agents prefer the old-time, safe simplicity of the churning fax machine, documents slowly splurging out for them to see and touch, rather than virtual messages through emails or texts.
But the key reason is that the legal world still prefers written documents and hand-written signatures to electronic notification.
Too many times for too many fans the fax has got in the way of a good story – as they sweat over a major signing or just the drama of ins and outs.
But for the FA, lawyers and administrators in general, nothing beats the formality of a piece of paper – many pieces, in fact, in the case of transfers.
How does it work as clubs’ wheel and deal?
Deadline day in a football secretary’s office can be a mass of phone calls mixed with a blur of hitches, wrangles and brinksmanship.
Once a transfer fee, salary and a contract have been agreed and assuming the player passes their medical, paperwork becomes king.
A player can only be registered if the leagues involved have all the documents about the deal.
These include transfer fee details, a contract, the agreement between the two clubs, plus a work permit and international clearance for overseas players.
And many clubs still favour the straightforward efficiency of faxes.
Numerous documents – such as foreign birth certificates, permits and previous visas – are still not logged to a system, so fax machines can triumph over new technology.
Not only this, because when it comes to speed these veteran frontrunners of the transfer system can still give today’s world of scanning-in and emailing a good kicking.
After this stage in proceedings, it suddenly becomes: Deal or no deal?
There is no time for loose ends, no excuse for inaccuracy, or else deadline-day moves break down. Much like a striker bearing down on goal in a tight game, these are the defining moments for football secretaries.
The next step in the minefield of a transfer
The League and FA, boosted by extra staff for the Transfer Window, double-check every document.
Meanwhile, secretaries can only sit and wait, usually hoping the FA will not call them… because it could mean a mistake has set the whole transfer back hours or possibly beyond saving. Sometimes the club might even need to contact the player again; other times they might need to hastily re-submit documents – often by trusty fax.
FA staff can deal with dozens of transfers per hour, typically in the last few hours of the window. And they can be there until the small hours, well past the 11 pm deadline.
Eleventh-hour madness on deadline day
Aside from the dilemmas and sagas embroiled in a world of agents. soaring wages and a growing need for instant success, deals can face the smaller problems you or I might encounter – traffic hold-ups, no phone power, or even a broken fax machine (David De Gea Man U to Madrid)
The FA have brought in the ‘Deal Sheet’. This means clubs can send the FA a simple confirmation that a deal has been struck but need longer to finalise the documents. Clubs then have extra time – until 1 am – to send all the paperwork.
Over the next few years, fax machines will slowly become an ancient technology in the football world as well but come deadline day this year you will hear that familiar fax noise in many football offices.
Source UK Media and Football Agents