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Should Football Players Be Allowed To Have Fantasy Football Teams?

premier league fantasy footballFantasy Football is big business for the companies that run such competitions, which assign points to players according to how well they do in football matches. Newspapers will often run a Fantasy Football competition every year, often with a cash prize on offer for the person that has accrued the most points at the end of the season. The Premier League, meanwhile, runs an official Fantasy Football competition of its own.

It has become more and more common for players to reference their own Fantasy Football teams, with the latest such example coming in the form of Patrick Bamford declaring after Leeds United’s win over Leicester City that he has ‘picked himself’ for his team. Given that players are not allowed to bet on football matches in case an action on the pitch is construed as them being influenced by bets placed, should they be allowed a Fantasy team?

Fantasy Sports Is Big Business

football teamsWhilst the official Premier League Fantasy Football competition doesn’t offer a cash prize, those that do well are rewarded with the likes of holidays, games consoles and other such items. Obviously football players in the Premier League, who are paid tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, have no need to be given a games console when they can afford to buy hundreds of them without breaking the bank.

Yet the likes of the official Fantasy Football league are extremely popular, with countless websites and even football-based magazines offering hints and tips on the players to bring in to your team. Given that we know a wealth of players take part in the Premier League’s official competition, it’s not a major stretch of the imagination to think that those that do will be having conversations or even bets with each other about their teams.

Is It Different From Betting?

football contoversyThe Football Association has specific rules and regulations around betting, including the fact that footballers are banned from being able to bet, ‘either directly or indirectly’, on football matches taking place anywhere in the world. This is something that the FA and other footballing authorities take extremely seriously, with even the slightest hint of a player being guilty of it resulting in bans and fines.

There are numerous reasons why players aren’t allowed to place bets, with the most obvious being that they have insider information that ‘normal’ bettors don’t have as well as the fact that they can have an active say in the outcome of a bet. All of that is completely understandable, yet is the same not true about Fantasy Football? After all, we’ve already established that players don’t need money, so it’s not like that will have a big influence.

Is it really so outrageous to imagine that a player might choose to shoot rather than pass the ball because they’ve selected themselves in their Fantasy Football team and they know a player in their side has selected themselves too? If they’d be willing to do it over a bet, might they not also be willing to do it over a Fantasy Football league position? It’s certainly intriguing that this doesn’t seem to have been considered by the FA.

The Premier League Competition Is Officially Sanctioned

premier leaguePerhaps one of the reasons why the likes of the Premier League and the Football Association haven’t looked too hard into whether players should be allowed to have Fantasy Football teams is the fact that the main competition is officially sanctioned. Though the Premier League’s competition doesn’t charge players to take part, it is sponsored and therefore will be a money earner for the organisation.

It’s unlikely to come across well for the Premier League if they were to ban their own players from taking part in the official Fantasy Football competition that they run. In fact, it’s not uncommon for players to be interviewed about their teams for the Premier League’s Fantasy Football website, usually in an amusing tone involving questions such as which player from their side they wouldn’t have in their Fantasy Football team.

There’s certainly an argument, therefore, that the Premier League doesn’t have an acceptable amount of perspective regarding the rights and wrongs of players having teams that they enter into the competition. They make money from their official Fantasy Football game, which is something that they wouldn’t want to compromise by saying that players weren’t allowed to take part in it.

Players Definitely Think About It

leighton bainesThere’s anecdotal evidence that the game also influences players and how they perform. A number of season ago, for example, Leighton Baines mentioned in an interview that his Everton teammate Leon Osman had dropped him from his Fantasy Football team because he wasn’t scoring enough points. Baines promised to play better and scored two goals in the following game.

It’s hardly an outrageous suggestion that Baines might have took a shot in in those instances because of his own decision to do better after the criticism from Osman. Whilst Everton will have been grateful that he scored, if he had missed might it have been better for him to pass the ball? Instead he made a choice that could have been influenced by his Fantasy Football selection in much the same way as if he’d placed a bet on himself.

The interview with Patrick Bamford in which he confirmed that he’s in his own Fantasy Football team proves that players definitely think about the competition. It’s interesting to note that the Leeds striker made his comments directly after the match, hinting that it had gone through his head just before he set up the third goal for the club. That is something that should worry both the Premier League and the Football Association.

Whilst players are unlikely to come out and admit that they made a choice that adversely affected the outcome of the match for the team that they play for, it is hardly rocket science to think that it might happen from time to time. That is especially the case when it comes to meaningless matches at the end of the season, when places are all but decided in the actual league but there’s still something to play for in the fantasy one.

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