Last week, Crystal Palace and West Ham fans were told by Sky Sports that Irons striker Diafra Sakho was all set to sign for the Eagles on a permanent basis, only for the deal to mysteriously “break down” at the last minute.
In the notoriously misleading world of transfer rumours, news of a supposedly “done deal” collapsing at the final hurdle shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but when the company in question retain a sizeable stake in the bookmaking firm SkyBet, questions must surely be asked about the organisation’s code of conduct.
For years now, Sky Sports News have marketed themselves as the go-to destination for transfer news, indulging football fans across the UK with their hysterical Deadline Day programming which, is all well and good but when reporters are tapping into the hot-house of gossip that is Twitter and manipulating betting markets in the process, I can’t help but feel a tad uncomfortable.
You may say that a company employee tweeting out what he’s “heard” regarding an imminent transfer is harmless in the greater scheme of things but in doing so, there is an active sense of encouragement for punters to lump on a deal taking place before the price changes dramatically. Yes, you could question why anyone would bet on something as fluid as a proposed transfer but gambling is addictive by its very nature, with bookmakers profiting from the regularly irrational decisions of their client-base, making this form of market manipulation a tantalising option for those at the top of the food-chain.
Plenty of causal onlookers are always keen to point out that Sky and SkyBet are now separate companies following a sale to CVC Capital in December 2014 but with Sky retaining a 20% stake and a long-term licence of the Sky brand as part of the deal, the waters remain extremely murky.
Whilst it may not be a controlling stake by any means, there remains a reason for Sky to drive cash into the SkyBet coffers, making their “reporters” comments over transfers questionable to say the least. I don’t expect anything to be done about this in the near or distant future but I would advise you to take the lines that Sky Sports feed you about imminent deals with a gigantic pinch of salt.
Things are seldom as they seem in the world of online bookmaking.