Fantasy Football and the Premier League

The re-branding of the Premier League at the start of this season gave much needed life to a stale state of affairs. The new colour scheme will be seen by over 2 billion people this year, and the simpler and more versatile template has gone down well.

Another way that the Premier League has been modernising the way it interacts with fans is via fantasy.

In the USA, thirty million people play fantasy American Football. Interestingly, fantasy fans have a higher propensity to purchase more tickets, merchandise and TV subscriptions than general football fans.

What this means for the leagues, is that there are more eyeballs on more games, in turn boosting sponsorship windfalls and TV subscriptions. Another positive is that it can encourage those who aren’t avid fans to become a fantasy team manager, via an office league for example.

A complex phenomenon that fantasy has created, is the defragmentation of loyalty to a team. Fans find themselves confusingly rooting for a rival team’s striker, because they are wearing the Captain’s arm band for their fantasy team.

For example, after Sergio Aguero’s recent injury, Arsenal fans were forced to choose between Kane, Costa, and Ibrahimovic. A hot run of games for one of the aforementioned trio could secure another Premier League-less season for Arsenal, but would also have them top the office league. Which would you prefer?

It is worth noting that the Premier League does have a few wrinkles to iron out with the fantasy side of things.

First, the congestion of fixtures around the winter period does result in apathy among users who simply cannot correctly change their team in the ‘transfer’ window with a game every three days. Furthermore, the likelihood for rotation of squads makes this exceptionally difficult.

Secondly, it is likely by the end – or even the middle – of the season, that most teams will begin to look very similar. Sergio Aguero has been a permanent staple in most teams (when not suspended, WOW he does not like David Luiz!) for the past few years, meaning that when he scores it is unlikely that you gain any standing on the field. A glance over to the ‘draft’ and ‘head-to-head’ aspect of American Football’s fantasy shows that there certainly is scope for mixing things up.

Finally, the fantasy mobile app and integration with broadcasting must be infinitely better next year. Points acquired must be instantly updated and the confusing bonus points system needs readjustment.

However, the biggest amendment that is needed is the live display of fantasy statistics during games. Fans want to know who is this week’s perfect team/striker/goalkeeper, who is projected to score the highest in the next game week, and where value is for future transfers.

As we have seen state-side, the potential for fantasy sports has been realised as the ultimate way to engage with fans.

It is time the Premier League did the same.



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