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, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, the Berlin Wall still existed and the Rubik’s Cube was the most fun you could fit in your pocket.
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.
Here, SunSport answers . . .
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 and administrators in general, nothing beats the formality of a piece of paper – many pieces, in fact, in the case of transfers.
For fax sake: De Gea’s infamous deadline-day no-go to Real
MANCHESTER UNITED keeper David De Gea might have a fax to grind with technology after his famous deadline-day no-go to Real Madrid in 2015.
All the way through the transfer window, the former Atletico Madrid No1 – Spain’s Euro 2016 stopper – seemed sure to complete what everyone thought was his dream move.
Sure, that is, until the last few minutes of the window.
De Gea flew to Madrid to agree terms and United asked for Real’s Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas in part exchange.
But on deadline day United took eight hours to send the contracts back to Real because of negotiations with Navas’ representatives.
Both players signed contracts by 9.44pm but these documents only arrived at Old Trafford at 11.32pm. More delays follow, with Real blaming more talks between United and Navas’ agents.
United finally register the De Gea move with Fifa’s TMS at midnight but Real take two minutes longer… two minutes too long.
Madrid claimed that the TMS – the modern replacement for faxes – had still invited them to complete the deal, despite them missing the deadline.
But the biggest mystery is why Real apparently failed to alert the Spanish League (LFP) that they would be making a late registration.
De Gea was pictured in tears – but later blamed turbulent emotions and insisted he was happy to stay at Old Trafford.
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 11pm 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.
So in 2010 the FA 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 1am – to send all the paperwork.