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Why Rugby Is Better Than Football #5,846: No Transfer Deadline Day

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Transfer deadline day is an unrelenting drudge of ridiculously overpriced signings and constant, mind-numbing cliches.

And so the curtain has closed on another transfer deadline day. The highs, the lows, the nail-biting drama, the tens of millions of pounds spent by clubs in just a few short hours - it's everything that's wrong with top-level football.

When comparing the Aviva Premiership, for example, to the Barclays Premier League, one area in which rugby excels is the way that the fans are able to relate to the players.

If you're from a rugby city - whether it's Bath or Gloucester, Leicester or Northampton, or countless others - there's a good chance you'll have the opportunity to share a beer or two with the stars after a match. What's especially welcome is that this is still true today, almost two decades after the game turned professional.

That's simply no longer the case in football, and the hours leading up to the transfer deadline highlight that more than any other period. Staggeringly overpaid players hand in transfer requests left, right and centre in an effort to force through moves, others fly across Europe on private jets in the hope of sealing a last-minute transfer, and behind the scenes a bunch of shadowy agents rub their hands together and count up the profits.

Mercifully, while it's becoming a growing trend in rugby union for clubs to buy players out of the final year or so of their contracts in order to secure their services, there are no multimillion-pound transfers. This fact, combined with the existence of the Premiership's salary cap, keeps the league on a relatively level playing field; it shouldn't matter how wealthy a club's owners, they've still got to abide by the same rules.

That's bred a situation whereby any side has a genuine chance of beating any other - perhaps never more so than the coming season, with newly promoted Newcastle Falcons looking like further strengthening an already fiercely competitive league.

Can the same honestly be said of Premier League football? Probably not. The financial gulf between the big fish and the small fry is huge, with the usual suspects accounting for the bulk of spending over the course of the summer.

According to professional services firm Deloitte, the total amount spent on transfers hit the £630million mark throughout the window, up by 29% year on year. Tottenham Hotspur topped the spending league, splashing out £109.3million, closely followed by Manchester City (£92million), Chelsea (£57.6million) and Liverpool (£44.8million).

Since the introduction of the transfer window system ahead of the 2002/03 season, spending has exceeded an astronomical £5.3billion, with 80 per cent of this being spent over the summer windows.

With such ridiculous sums of money being bandied around - don't forget that the latest window saw Gareth Bale leave Spurs for Real Madrid in a record £85million deal - it's surely impossible for football to claim that it's still a sport for the everyman. How can the average person feel any real connection to a Premier League footballer when the player's yearly earnings are more than they'll probably pocket in a lifetime?

But the worst thing about deadline day is just that it's so unbelievably daft. Suddenly, some of the richest sporting clubs in the world - run, you'd hope, by highly skilled and intelligent people - lose any sense of perspective or business acumen and instead start throwing vast sums of cash at players they've had all summer to sign.

And the cliches. Oh, the constant, infuriating cliches. Reports come in that Player A or Manager B has been spotted at some unlikely motorway service station in the Midlands; every signing professes his undying love and life-long support of the club he's just joined; bemused reporters stand guard outside training grounds the length and breadth of the country, offering helpful updates like 'it's getting dark now so we can't really see what's going on'; Harry Redknapp gives an interview while leaning through the window of his car.

But look on the bright side: the new Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 seasons kick off on Friday (6 September), and hopefully there won't be a 'derisory bid', 'war chest' or 'undisclosed fee' in sight!

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