All opinions expressed below are those of the writer and may not reflect those of 3attheback!
By Will Guthrie
Considering the billions of pounds generated each year by the English Premier League, every aspect of the fan experience should be second-to-none. Sadly, this is not the case. In sports all around the world, the Fantasy arena is a much-loved aspect, giving armchair experts everywhere the chance to put their knowledge to the test – sometimes for cash, but more importantly, for bragging rights. There’s no feeling quite like knocking off a good mate in Fantasy, proving that you are, in fact, superior to them when it comes to sport and that they should stick to their day job (whatever that is). How many times have boring office jobs been made better by a work Fantasy league? Or a group of mates held together by competing to win something that, as many an exasperated partner has pointed out over the years, isn’t even real? It’s a unique aspect of sport that has grown over the years into an extremely entertaining hobby and yet – as controversial as this may sound – the English Premier League’s version just doesn’t cut it.
There are plenty of reasons why we don’t all make it to the elite level, whether it be a lack of work ethic, discipline, talent, or those trials at West Ham that didn’t happen. But being a washed-up hack is made less painful by Fantasy sports. The chance to put your mates to the sword – and let them know about it – is a gift to those of us whose dreams were dashed by the age of 15. So, with so much on the line for plebs like us with nothing better to do, it’s staggering that the Premier League’s version is so ordinary.
To be fair to the Premier League, they’ve upgraded their Fantasy format over the past decade or so, introducing head-to-head leagues, and more recently draft leagues. Draft leagues might just be Fantasy sports Holy Grail. With it comes trading, collusion, free agency and some of the most genuinely petty behaviour you’ll ever see. It also allows for a Draft Night that sees you pouring over spreadsheets and pages of notes while your partner rolls their eyes at you, all while you convince yourself that this is your year.
The biggest issue I have with Fantasy PL is with their weird player pricing system. Player prices fluctuate throughout the week based on how many people have traded a player in or out of their team. This is completely ridiculous; if you trade early in the week and the player you bring in gets injured at training, your season could be over. Or if you wait until the weekend to bring a player in, they might be too expensive. Basically, it introduces an element of luck into the game. People will call it strategy but don’t kid yourself, it’s luck. There’s already enough of that in Fantasy sports without an extra layer of convoluted nonsense. Furthermore, if you have the foresight to start the season with a player whose value increases, you’re only rewarded for this with half the amount of the player price rise, sometimes not even that as it’s inexplicably rounded down – probably because making things needlessly difficult is sooo cool! What a joke. You’re essentially being punished for being more knowledgeable.
The other big gripe is that, much like football itself, the season ends in an anticlimax. Most teams are out of contention in the last month or so and lose interest. Just about every other Fantasy sport in the world has playoffs or finals, meaning that the top six, eight or even ten teams are still alive until the last week or two. Sure, being the best all season is great, but winning when you need to, under pressure, that’s when champions are made – so why not have that element in Fantasy as well? Even if the Premier League doesn’t have this feature, and likes a title to be decided weeks before the season is over, there’s no reason that Fantasy PL can’t include it. It would definitely keep people from dropping off and losing interest.
In summary, the PL might be the most glamourous, well-promoted and richest league in world football, but they are really dropping the ball in one key area in comparison to other sports around the globe. A lot of people won’t agree with this, but when the NFL, AFL and cricket get the basics right, keeping you interested from start to finish, it needs to be pointed out that there’s a lot of room for improvement. Don’t @ me.