Football Sport

The good, the bad and the Fantasy Football

Source: Nathan Rogers via Flickr

by Reece Chambers and Olly Allen

Friday night’s Premier League opener between Liverpool and Norwich City marked the start of another Fantasy Football season. Millions of managers around the world submitted their Gameweek 1 teams after weeks of selection headaches.

Year on year, the online game continues to grow with extra features and even more players. The prizes get bigger, yet the game stays completely free. It’s the perfect concept for those who want to battle it out against the work colleagues of University friends, but is it actually as enjoyable as the website makes out? 

Based on social media activity from around the world, it would be difficult to argue that everyone loves the game. It’s a roller-coaster of emotions that, even without money riding on it, can make or break people’s weekends.

With several years of managing Fantasy Football teams behind them, Reece Chambers and Olly Allen argue for and against the concept of the online game…

FOR – by Olly Allen

Oumar Niasse. Emre Can. Shinji Okazaki. Three players largely inconsequential in the Premier League’s history, but three players who will forever hold a place in my heart for their exploits in my fantasy team. Everyone will have these ‘differentials’ – middling selections we form connections with as they pop up with surprise points at vital points of the season. 

I suppose the whole thing is literally fantasyland and must sound almost comical to outsiders. But that’s what Fantasy Football is. It is fun, light-hearted entertainment that only adds to our enjoyment of the real-life game.

Firstly, it gives added interest to fixtures. As a fan of a club who aren’t in the Premier League, Fantasy Football gives me something to cheer for in games that I watch – I can celebrate Harry Kane as if he was playing for my own team. Football fandom is based around emotional investment, and Fantasy Football only enhances that. It’s also a much safer way of achieving this ‘thrill’ than gambling. Whilst there may be an entry fee for some fantasy games or wagers created between friends, this is usually a once-a-season cost. In comparison, gambling induces a continual loss of money that has many negative side effects.

One such side effect that is often alluded to is loneliness. There is no such issue in fantasy football which is a hugely social experience. Players can be part of up to 20 mini-leagues, and there is a large online community based around Fantasy Football too. For groups of friends, it provides a topic of conversation on a Saturday afternoon in addition to the usual match chat.

One of the best things about football is the range of opinions out there, and fantasy football gives people a chance to show how clued up they really are. To put their £100 million budget where their mouth is. Reckon you’ve found a hidden gem? Think Harry Maguire is better than Virgil van Dijk? Prove your knowledge by picking them. Of course, it feels great when the decisions you make often based on gut instinct, pay off.

The variations on Fantasy Football are endless; from the draft format to the quirky ‘Fewest Points Wins’ league. Whether your team is ‘Murder on Zidane’s Floor’ or ‘Chicken Tikka Mo Salah’, there’s something for everyone. 

AGAINST – by Reece Chambers

For the first time in five seasons, I kicked off the Premier League campaign without a Fantasy Football team. After five successful seasons at the helm of the Ginger Ninjas, I decided to pack it all in, here’s why…

Friday’s Premier League opener between Liverpool and Norwich City indicated the start of another Premier League season. Not a fan of Friday night football? No, me neither. But that constant changing of the football calendar is something we’ll have to get used to, which leads me on to my first point.

Managing a successful Fantasy Football team requires a large amount of commitment to the cause. Whether you’re meant to be at a family meal or writing an essay, those last-minute changes can make all the difference. If you want to succeed at Fantasy Football, it requires a lot of dedication.

You need to know your players, their opposition, home and away form, the list goes on. It’s not as simple as picking the best players – it’s about finding that unique pick that’s going to give you an extra edge.

That, in essence, is everything wrong with Fantasy Football. For me, it takes away from the beauty of the game. Managing a Fantasy Football side can be all-encompassing and take away from the football itself. It creates a frame of mind that leaves you unhappy with every result by the end of the weekend. Great, my team won – but their opposition’s striker, who’s in my team, didn’t score.

Once I began to start supporting my favourite team’s opposition, I knew the fun had gone. Reaching the top 10,000 in the world was all well and good, but it was ruining the game I loved most – football.

I believe that Fantasy Football is taking away the things we love most about the beautiful game. Football is meant to spark passion and pride. But Fantasy Football does the opposite – it creates hyper-scrutiny and a system that cannot be fully gratified.

Olly is right, Fantasy Football can have advantages. It’s only a game at the end of the day.

But perhaps that’s the problem. The fact it’s only a game creates an environment that enables football fans to play with their own emotions and loyalties.

If you’re not a fan of a Premier League side, then Fantasy Football is perfect. But this message is to those who support a top-flight team: don’t continue to waste your weekends worrying about who scored somewhere else in the country, watch your own team and enjoy it. Fully invest yourself in your team for the 90 minutes, it’s what it’s all about.

As an avid Liverpool fan, I much more enjoy being able to watch my team without being a little disheartened if Firmino scores instead of Salah.

Fantasy Football tainted the passion for my club, and that’s why I won’t be masterminding another successful Ginger Ninjas campaign this season.

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