One day. That’s all it took; just one day. Just 24 hours after Andreas Iniesta had powered home his late winner for the Spanish in Soccer city, I received my invite to join the 7th annual ‘League of Keith’s’ Fantasy Football League. Normally the mention of the start of a new Fantasy Football League would fill me with a rush of boyhood giddiness similar to the likes felt when school had finished up for the summer or when my old man used to take me to games at OT. So why do I seem disinterested this time around?
I started playing Fantasy Football when I was eleven years old. Inspired by watching Baddiel and Skinner late on a Friday night, a group of us got together to do our very own fantasy league six weeks or so from the end of the 1992/93 season. We held an auction in my bedroom where the six of us went through our shortlists and bid on names such as Lars Bohinen, Colin Hendry and my own personal favorite, Darren Peacock, who I signed for a cool £37 million. Unfortunately our first attempt was short lived. After a day of watching the scores update on Ceefax we somehow made a huge mess of the scoring system and the league was abandoned one week in. A few months later with the 1993/94 season on the horizon, six or seven of us congregated at my friend Paddy’s house for the first real auction. This lasted a good couple of hours and by the end of the day we all had a squad of 22 players to choose from.
My main problem with Fantasy Football at the moment is that in a sense it is too easy (although I have never won one myself). By this I mean that everyone theoretically can have the same team.
You’re given a budget of £100m, a list of every player in the league and you go and pick your team. In a league of 20 people it’s pretty much guaranteed that fifteen of the managers would have Lampard, Torres or Rooney in their ranks. It usually takes people three of four weeks to get into the swing of things and if there team is struggling they give up and don’t bother with it for the rest of the year.
I’ve been playing the NFL version of fantasy league and have found this to be a much more fulfilling experience. The good thing about the American system is that you have a draft at the start of the season that determines which team each individual player lands on. Once the draft is complete you are then free to trade players between teams with the approval of the other league members. The system has proved hugely successful over the years, to the point where magazines are produced previewing the upcoming fantasy season and companies such as ESPN have their very own fantasy league section, with writers devoted to writing about nothing but fantasy sports.
In order to make Fantasy Football exciting again, I believe we should look to rip off the American way with five simple steps.
1. The Auction
Auctions are great because everyone’s football knowledge was put to the test. A budget of £50 million should be more than enough to assemble a squad of 18 players. I’m no tech geek but I’m sure that someone out there would be able to put this together online. Features such as last season’s stats would prove really useful for managers to review and help them make signings. As well as a chat board where you can give out stick to as many other managers as you want. A list of my own personal auction highlights can be seen below.
• My purchase of Robert Lee for £1.5m (brilliant deal)
• My signing of Kevin Gallen for £2m (not so brilliant)
• My Swapping of Eric Cantona for John Salako ten minutes after the auction had finished (god damn disastrous)
• Paddy signing Martin Keown for £6m and signing Jason Euell for a similar fee on the back of his “he’s the next Pele” claim
• Adam Cooper bringing up Kevin Richardson as his first player to bid on...there were no other offers.
2. Post Auction Transfer budget
This does exist to an extent at the moment in the majority of online Fantasy Leagues. On the Premier League’s official game site what you don’t spend when selecting your squad initially, you get to keep for yourself.
What I am proposing is a £15m post auction transfer kitty that every manager gets given as soon as the auction comes to an end. With this money the manager can bid for any opposing manager’s players, but only sign one player a month in order to limit the amount of players movement around the league. So if I wanted to sign Rooney from another manager I could in theory bid £15m for him. However, with a squad size limitation I would have to make room for him. How do I do that? I here you ask.
3. The Free Agent List
Similar to the NFL waiver wire, the free agent list would serve as just that; a list of players that weren’t picked up at the auction. In order to sign Rooney, I would have to release one of my players and they would join the free agent list. Anyone could then pick up my discarded player from the list and add them to their squad. As many free agents can be picked up by any one manager at a time, as long as they don’t break the eighteen-player squad limit. This of course can lead to great free agent signings like in 1993 when Kieran called Paddy’s house on a Sunday night at 10.30 to ask if anyone had Barry Venison in there squad. Surprisingly he didn’t get a positive answer.
4. Turning the league into one on one matches.
One of the best things about NFL fantasy league is that you square off against each other every week. One week you can face your mate at work, the next you can face off against your mate from home. This is great as it makes the league more competitive and keeps people interested from day one. Three points would be awarded for a win, one for a draw and nothing for a defeat. So even if you lose the first three games of the season, you don’t lose interest by the end of August because there is still so much more time left to make up the difference.
5. Simple Point Scoring
I can’t stand things like double points for captain and ‘Dream Team’ star man gets extra points. It’s a lot of extra fuss that isn’t needed. Also getting points for just playing is ridiculous. I would have the rules be as simple as this.
Striker – 3 Points
Midfielder – 4 Points
Defender – 5 Points
Goalkeeper – 7 Points
Goal Keepers and Defenders
Clean Sheet 2 Points
Goal Conceded - - 1
Assists – 2 Points
Yellow cards - - 2
Red Card – - 5
This system makes the game a lot easier to follow.
So there you have it. Fantasy Football fixed in five simple points. Of course there is a 2% chance of anyone picking up on this idea but still, feedback is always welcome. Let’s start a fantasy revolution.