Could the fantasy premier league become an eSport?

Here’s a feature article from Liam on whether fantasy premier league could become an eSport

Could the fantasy premier league become an eSport?

There have been numerous attempts by media outlets to promote fantasy football and appeal to the millions of players around the globe. Who can forget Fantasy Football with Max Rushden and Paul Merson? Rushden certainly can’t, as he’s ridiculed for it on an almost weekly basis by fellow Football Weekly presenter Barry Glendenning.

Surely fantasy football can evolve and grow to more than it currently is, more than a sideshow played by football enthusiasts and nerds. After all, eSports has now made its way into the mainstream.

Many Premier League clubs have their own professional eSports player, gambling companies are now advertising eSports betting. Will there be a time when fantasy football becomes as popular as eSports? Read on to find out.

Not in its current format

Andrew Wainstein brought the idea of fantasy football to the UK in 1991 and it became hugely popular in a short period of time. Newspapers bought into the craze and encouraged readers to join their own leagues as a way to boost readership.

That’s how the game began to differ from the US version. In the States fantasy football is a big business, and players will spend large amounts of money to improve their squads. The biggest draw for players is the competitive element of fantasy sports.

Every week managers will face off against another team in their league, the manager who claims the most fantasy points claims the win. In the British version, players receive weekly points based on their players’ performances which are added up for an aggregate score at the end of the season.

A couple of dodgy player choices at the beginning of the season and it can be easy to lose interest by the time autumn comes. If British fantasy football mirrors the style of its American counterpart, perhaps there will be more long-term interest in the game.

Money makes the difference

Unlike eSports, fantasy football doesn’t have the overarching appeal of constant action and gameplay. To make it as appealing as eSports there needs to be an extra incentive, and that has to be money.

Newspapers and some bookmakers offer prizes to the small number of people who are in the 1% of successful fantasy football managers, but that’s not enough. If you create a league with friends online, you often wager small amounts for a winner’s pot at the end of the season.

Bigger incentives though will lead to bigger audiences. Bookmakers are perhaps the big hope for this in fantasy football. Following the American model would be a good start for bookies, who could then introduce financial incentives to every weekly clash.

Summary: Will fantasy football match the popularity of eSports?

In short, no. Fantasy football just doesn’t have the same widespread appeal of eSports. Many more people play FIFA than fantasy football, and hundreds of thousands more watch eSports on streaming sites such as YouTube and Twitch.

What fantasy football can do though is evolve, and gain more interest than it does currently. Enticing financial incentives and an increased competitive edge would be a good start, at the very least it would give Max Rushden a chance to get back on the telly!

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