Summer Transfer Rumour Wrap-up

Anyone has been keeping a close eye on this website over the summer, will have noticed that I have attempted to keep track of, just about, every transfer rumour related to Coventry City – if you haven’t, the full post is here. In total, the Sky Blues were linked with 50 players, of which ten signed. Additionally, 12 players were linked with leaving the club, of which four did (this doesn’t include players that left but weren’t rumoured to).

The intention of this transfer rumour tracker was to prove, with data, just how little some of these transfer rumour accounts that crop up over the summer actually know. I am aware that most of you reading this will already be well aware of this, but I despair that there still seem to be people who get suckered in by these transfer rumour accounts.

However, this appears to have been the summer where the appetite for these spurious accounts has dropped off. There was one notable account – which I’ll go into later on – that had been the most common source of Coventry City rumours, which completely stopped posting rumours after the 28th June. There were a few accounts that attempted to step into the void – which weren’t included as I applied a quality filter of at least 100 followers – but didn’t gain traction. With this trend repeating itself outside of the world of Coventry City, perhaps the age of the ‘in the know’ transfer rumour account is coming to an end.

The chart below shows the drop-off in transfer rumours over the course of the summer. May, June and July were the peak months, where 79% of the rumours began, with a notable tailing-off in August. However, this may have more to do with when Coventry City did the bulk of their transfer business rather than a lack of interest in transfer rumours.

The number of rumours over the course of the summer

Onto the sources of transfer rumours, around 70% of Coventry City’s transfer rumours this summer came from nine sources. Two of these were established media outlets – Alan Nixon of the Sun and the Coventry Telegraph – with another two – Football Insider and Football League World – less-established media outlets, the rest being those amateur rumour accounts that we all know and love.

The chart below shows the success rate of these nine transfer rumour accounts, along with the number of rumours posted. EFL Zone 2 had the most successful rumours, but also posted the most rumours, demonstrating its scattergun approach. Interestingly, both Football Insider (an actual media source of some repute) and the Coventry City FC Bible (very much not) had a 50% success rate from the same number of rumours.

Rumour sources and success rate

However, comparing the number of rumours to the amount that actually come off isn’t necessarily an accurate way to assess the reliability of a transfer rumour. A link to a player can be genuine but fall through because of interest in the player elsewhere, a better player in the same position becoming available, or a multitude of other reasons.

That is why I rated each rumour on a scale of 1-5 (one being least likely and five being most likely) when they were posted to assess how believable the rumour initially looked to be. For example, the link with Bright Enobakhare seemed a little hard to believe at first but came to fruition, whereas Matty James looked all but certain to sign earlier in the summer but ended up not doing so. The intention was to reflect which sources may actually know something and the others that are simply making it up and have been lucky to have been the first to stumble across the occasional correct rumour.

The chart below is, I believe, a better reflection of the quality of transfer rumour sources than simply looking at how many rumours came off. The three most believable sources were Alan Nixon, the Coventry Telegraph and Football Insider, all of which employ, or are, professional journalists. By contrast, amateur accounts such as EFL Zone 2 and Sky Blue Insider are shown to be the guessers that they actually are.

Rumour sources ranked by believability

There are still a few vagaries of the world of transfer rumours that are not captured by the data. Coventry City FC Bible appears to be a relatively believable and successful source of transfer rumours, but I probably don’t have to tell you that they are not. Looking closer at the rumours they got right – Maxime Biamou and Marko Marosi both leaving – they were pretty easy to guess.

On the flip side, I don’t doubt that Football League World has genuine contacts inside the game, despite it appearing from the data to be an untrustworthy source. However, their rumours lacked specificity, which is where they ran aground. For example, Football League World were the first media outlet to link Gustavo Hamer with a move away from the club – which seems like it could have been genuine – but linked him to four different clubs. This suggests to me that, as a relatively new media outlet, they were getting rumours at early stages of the transfer process from sources looking to get players’ names out there.

Going back to an earlier point, there appears to have been a level of fatigue in relation to Coventry City transfer rumours over the course of the summer. However, I’m wary in believing that the age of the dodgy rumour account is truly over. The issue this summer may have had more to do with supply than demand.

The biggest source of transfer rumours in relation to Coventry City was EFL Zone 2. Despite purporting to be a source of EFL transfer rumours, anyone keeping a close eye on it could have guessed that it was probably being run by a Coventry City fan, due to the sheer number of Coventry City-related rumours being posted compared to those for other clubs. The only reason that account stopped was because someone on social media had managed to ‘unmask’ the person running the account.

There were one or two accounts that attempted to step into the void, but never really got going. The closest that came to filling the void was Sky Blues Extra, however, they haven’t styled themselves as solely a transfer rumours account. Nonetheless, that desire to step into the territory indicates that there remains an appetite for transfer rumours despite the number of accounts whose sole purpose is to post transfer rumours appearing to be on the decline.

The reason why transfer rumours on social media remain in demand is twofold. The first is that they are easily consumable via a Tweet, requiring less effort than reading a full article. The second is that they are the kind of positive news that football fans will always want to know about and share.

The combination of that means that there is little incentive to credit sources of transfer rumours, when many of these ‘in the know’ accounts are simply aggregating rumours from other areas of social media or internet forums. A common trend I spotted in the Transfer Rumour Tracker was accounts simply posting rumours that had begun elsewhere as if they were the original source. With the majority of people unaware of those original sources or unwilling to put in the legwork to find them, this can create the impression of ‘insider’ knowledge.

Instead of acknowledging that they maybe got lucky with a guess or had plagiarised their transfer rumours from elsewhere, some of these accounts will leverage that impression of knowledge to sell further rumours. While this might be relatively harmless, there are instances where verified reports from professional journalists are discredited by these accounts or where they can invite abuse of those running the football club’s social media accounts for implying there is transfer activity when there is not.

Not all transfer rumour accounts do this – it’s worth pointing out that a very small number will genuinely have inside information – there are many that prefer to get their news social media posts rather than read a full article. However, I continue to find it frustrating that there are people out there who continue to get suckered in by the tactics of these ‘in the know’ accounts. There’s a difference between aggregating rumours and passing them off as your own, those that cite their sources will burn fewer bridges and have genuine longevity – such as CCFC Transfer Report.

It is at this point where I question my own culpability in the world of Coventry City transfer rumours this summer. The Transfer Rumour Tracker is, comfortably, the most read article that I’ve ever posted on this site – more than a little dispiriting compared to the effort I put into my season previews and reviews. The more rumours these accounts posted, the better it was for me.

I had hoped that by mocking and dissecting the nature of these ‘in the know’ rumour accounts, it would arm those who weren’t aware with the knowledge to separate fact from fiction. The drop-off in Coventry City rumours over the summer could well have been the result of this. However, I still noticed people who must have read the Transfer Rumour Tracker who were still getting suckered in by these accounts.

Perhaps it was overambitious to believe that my efforts could help Coventry City fans separate transfer rumour fact from fiction. Perhaps I have at least helped a few people to do so. The core reason why this is the only transfer window that I’ll run a Transfer Rumour Tracker is that if many of these ‘in the know’ transfer rumour accounts are parasites to professional journalists, I became a parasite to these parasites, and I don’t like that.

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