The inspiration for this article came to me while thinking that I may need to explain the sudden deluge of Fantasy Football (#FPL) tweets to those who follow me on Twitter. The reason is that the vast majority of people who are following me are unlikely to be fantasy football fans, and have other interests such as design, customer experience, Holonomics – those kinds of things.
But I really feel that this incredibly absorbing, exciting, frustrating, and at times hilarious game justifies an article not just for my Twitter followers, but to all of you who may not have experienced the highs and lows of this amazing game, and also just how many lessons it can teach us.
What is Fantasy Football?
The premise of the game is simple. At the start of the football season, you have a budget of £100 million. You have to pick fifteen players from the Premier League all who have different valuations. Eleven men will play, and four will be substitutes just in case some of your players do not play that week. You can pick a maximum of three players per each Premier League club, and that’s basically it.
Every single person playing the game has to select two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfielders and three strikers. This means that squad formations plays a role. Will you go for a 3-4-3, 4-4-2, 3-5-2 or other formation? (These numbers refer to the number of defenders, midfielders and strikers you will field).
The basic idea is that if your player scores, makes an assist (is the person who passes the ball to the goal scorer) or makes a save, you earn points. So the idea is that you need to pick a squad to maximise your overall points. However, with the budget limited to £100m, you cannot afford the top players from every team, just as pretty much every real football team cannot afford to buy a squad consisting of the top 24 players in the world.
Here is how my squad is currently shaping up for the start of the 2018/2019 season which begins on the 10th August.
Sounds pretty simple really? There are of course additional rules and tactical aspects of the game to make it even more interesting.
Buying and Selling Players
Each week you are allowed to sell one player in order to buy one new player. You are free to buy and sell as many of you wish, but each additional sale will cost you -4 points. You also have two wildcards allowing you to buy and sell any number of players without these costs.
The game I am referring to is the official Fantasy Football edition of the England Premier League. Most other major football leagues around the world have their own versions, and there was also an official world cup edition, although the rules were somewhat different to cope with the knock-out stages.
So what makes Fantasy Football so amazing?
So that’s the game explained as simply as possible. But why do I love the game so much? This is why…
It’s about strategy and planning
Not only do you need to get your weekly tactics right, the game teaches you long-term planning skills. You need to plan your budgets, transfers and wildcards etc based on the changing fixtures, injuries and other extraneous events such as cup competitions which always see many players rotated and rested.
One podcast I watch regularly is Andy’s Let’s Talk FPL. Lot’s of no nonsense advice and he always talks through his team choices each week.
It’s about the head and the heart
Sometimes you will have a feeling about a player and go with your gut instinct. But the game teaches statistical skills in order to be able to calculate various ways of measuring a player’s value. El Statto on Twitter is a great account to follow for those with a head for figures:
It’s about controlling emotions
Often a player will not score for a week or two or three. You angrily take him out of your team and what do you know? Next week he bangs in three. You really have to learn how to stay calm and not make irrational or hasty decisions in the heat of a bad run of results.
It’s about research
In the run up to the start of the season there is a lot of research to be done, especially on the new teams which have been promoted, and any new players coming into the premier league for the first time. I love Who Got the Assist as a great example of guys who are researching on our behalf. They have podcasts, a website and are active on Twitter.
It’s about managing a budget
The game’s ultimate dynamics lie in the way in which the #FPL game designers decide to price each player. With Salah being £13million this season, people are going crazy trying to fit their other players in around this premium midfielder which currently around 50% of teams own.
It’s not ultimately about the competition, it’s the community and support
While of course every player taking part in fantasy football wants to do well, what makes the whole experience outstanding is the community which has built up around the game. I live in Brazil and I really miss the Monday morning office banter around the weekend’s sporting action, and so I use Twitter a lot to chat with people, and enjoy the lows as well as highs.
I love the FPL Wildcats as a brilliant collective of FPL experts who often come together online for their podcasts. All you have to do is look at the #FPL hashtag on Twitter to see just how much positive help people receive.
It’s about Twitter
I think Twitter has been an absolutely outstanding platform for interacting with other players of the game. You really have to follow the hashtag during the live games to really understand the passion, the euphoria, the agonies, the regrets of poor choice of players, the anguish of a player missing a penalty or receiving a red card to really get the game.
This tweet was really interesting as it seems this sense of humour, community and positivity is not always present on other platforms such as Reddit.
It’s a family game
I play Fantasy Football with Maria, and this can cause some “scenes” when I do my best to make some helpful suggestions on who to buy, and who then subsequently fail to deliver any meaningful points whatsoever. I was therefore really happy to discover FPL Family, Sam and Lee who started out last year with a Youtube podcast and which has now grown to a channel with over 4,000 followers on Twitter.
They have a really excellent rapport, their videos being helpful, funny and occasionally accidentally hilarious when strategies misfire (mainly with Lee it has to be said). As someone who is a part of an FPL Family, they are essential viewing.
It’s not just for blokes
Especially given that the Twitter community is so positive, it has been great to watch the official Fantasy Football Premier League game team consist of both female and make commentators, posting regular video updates.
And as well as Sam from FPL Family, there are now a number of female FPL personalities emerging and developing large numbers of followers. Nymferia is a great example, who is also a member of the FPL Wildcats collective.
So that’s Fantasy Football really
I could have quite easily carried on with this article talking about so many other aspects. It’s a marathon not a sprint, and any season which starts off in an unspectacular manner can always be turned around, as Maria managed to do a couple of seasons ago sprinting up our mini league.
There are plenty of mini leagues to join, some with prizes and some with themes such as not being able to pick players from the Top 6 teams. The permutations are endless, and there are also lots of opportunities for brands to join in. I really enjoyed this years World Cup Fantasy Football, especially as amazingly I won the BrewDog minileague with The Supermodifieds.
I really want to thank all of those people who I have never met but who I have had the huge pleasure to interact with and share the highs and lows. Fantasy Football is an amazing experience in many different ways, and if you enjoy football but have never yet played, I really can recommend it.
Oh, and by the way, I have since been tinkering with my team while writing my article. It’s currently looking like this and sure to change many times before the first whistle of 2018/19. All the very best of luck to those of you taking part.