Pay to Play

I’ve spent the better part of 35 years involved in fantasy sports, beginning in 1983 when a group of friends created a fantasy NFL league. Back then, there was no infrastructure to support the hobby like there is today. The Internet was in it’s infancy and I was logging into an online service called The Source, in an effort to get all the latest scores and updates, to be a step ahead of the morning newspaper, manually tally points for the weekend action.

Fast forward some 25 years and fantasy sports have seen a tremendous boom in popularity. It was estimated some 33 million people played the (NFL) fantasy game While I’ve only been participating in Fantasy Premier League going on five years, I have been involved in all aspects of the game; from manager to commissioner and even pundit, though I would never think of refer to myself as an “expert.”

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that 32 million Americans spend $467 per person or about $15 billion in total playing. Roughly, 11 billion flows toward football. These figures don’t count ad revenue for fantasy hosting sites,” from a 2013 Forbes article, The $70 Billion Fantasy Football Market.

Each year, as a league commissioner, I doled out from $100 to $150 to buy the season software in order to manage our league. On top of that I subscribed to a few fantasy services that would post articles about players and crunch the numbers to give fantasy managers an edge over their competition, come draft day.

Now with the American gridiron game behind, I still manage the same league I started in 1983, with 6 of the original members, all life long friends. No longer do I give two shits about the game, I don’t watch it, don’t prepare for our draft or put any care into the outcome of the season. There’s nothing, aside from the friendships that keep me returning.

As interest waned in the NFL, a new game appeared on the horizon as my love of REAL football came to the forefront. Can’t tell you how many years I watch the EPL on television before realizing there was a fantasy game to join.

Each year I seem to get more wrapped in a game, that honestly, has no bearing on my life. Then again, I am good company with the game approaching 6 million players worldwide. Those numbers still pale in comparison to the gridiron game but the premise of the game remains the same. Score the most points and come out on top.

It’s not the game I want to discuss and compare, rather the support network surrounding the game. The last position I held before I lost the love for gridiron was a pundit/moderator for an Arizona based subscription service, started by a group of friends, one who was a sports talk host in the Phoenix area. Their tools were outstanding, helping to make my job easier providing fantasy advice.

While I can’t comment on social media aspect of the gridiron game, FPL seems to revolve around it. From You Tube and Facebook to Reddit and Twitter, there’s an a wealth of information at a fantasy managers fingertips. The best part of it all, most all of the content is free!

Last season Ben Crellin provided a spreadsheet service for much of the year, helping managers plan their chip strategy for the blank and double gameweeks. Prior to the DGW, he offered his spreadsheet for the remaining few weeks at a cost. This didn’t sit well with some in the community. However he wasn’t the only one offering a service with an associated cost.

Patreon.com is “a membership platform that makes it easy for artists and creators to get sustainable income.” Before last season, I had never heard of it. Always Cheating, hosted by Josh and Brandon went live using the service last year, providing some swag for those who donated.

Remember this, a donation is voluntary, if you don’t want to pay for content, advice or support individuals in the FPL community by tossing a few bucks their way, that’s fine. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips.

Had a discussion on Twitter yesterday with FPL Maestro who tweeted:

While we didn’t discuss details surrounding this thought, I don’t believe I pay for any services when lending my support, using Patreon. In fact, I don’t know any premium fantasy sites to subscribe to, if I were so inclined to “pay for an #FPL service.”

While not associated through Patreon, I subscribed to Fantasy Football Scout last season to use their Members tools, which were excellent. Enjoyed their tools so much, I continued the subscription this season. Again, that “service” doesn’t tell me who to play, nor do they set my weekly starting XI.

Like many opinions I have when to comes to fantasy football, I seem to be the minority voice. The thread continued, featuring comments like, “it’s pathetic” or to calling it “brand promotion” and “a waste of money.” While there could be value seen in some of the comments, most reflect negatively when it comes to supporting the FPL community.

The underlying point I was attempting to make was, I’m paying a few backs a month to the developers or individuals behind the account to support them and as a thank you, for the hours of enjoyment I get from their comment. It probably got lost in much of the negative feedback.

What I don’t pay for is a service telling me who draft, how to maximize my players and who should be on my starting XI. That point, I agree with many who provided their opinions on this tweet. As Alan Kelly pointed out, “Social media has its downsides.” Maybe this is one aspect, where we see highly followed accounts or content providers moving to Patreon in order to offset costs associated with their content. Even hosting a website and podcast aren’t cheap.

I’m not ashamed to say I support numerous FPL accounts on Patreon. Has it helped me as a fantasy manager? Probably not, then again, this is a fantasy game, I don’t take all that serious, but find fun and enjoyment in the game and the other managers I communicate with. To date, none of those accounts have selected my starting XI or told me how to play the game. It’s like the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

If you have others doing your research and telling you how to play, you might have one successful season. However, if you learn how to break the game down, research statistics and apply strategy, you will be a stronger fantasy manager for years to come.

While I don’t believe there is a simple answer to paying for content/service/opinions, it comes down to each fantasy manager to make their own decision as to how they want to play the FPL game. Find what makes it fun for you throughout the season.

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