It’s just a matter of weeks now until the biggest football event in the world kicks off in Russia, with the FIFA 2018 World Cup. Thirty-two teams and sixty-four matches later, and we will know who the best team is, and the best manager, in the world. Of course, if you go down to the local pub, you’ll find the man who thinks he is the best football manager in the world propping up the bar and explaining his team and strategies to anyone who will listen.
To be fair, we all think we know best when it comes to sports. We all believe we could do a better job than Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp put together, and we especially think we can pick a better team than poor old Gareth Southgate. That’s why fantasy football leagues are so popular because they give you the opportunity to prove that you do know better than the professionals.
Fantasy football first appeared way back in 1971, when a chap called Bernie Donnelly created the first league, and 47 years later, we are still playing in our millions. The official Fantasy Premier League, run by the Barclays Premier League itself, has around six million players worldwide, and there are many other fantasy leagues run by newspapers and websites.
Fantasy sports have also spread across the world. In the U.S., it has been estimated that playing fantasy NFL, based on American football games and players, costs the economy something like $6 billion a year in lost productivity.
The joy of fantasy leagues is that anyone can play, and anyone can win, as cricketer Stuart Broad proved when he topped the worldwide league in week 37. He may have only received a Fantasy Premier League goodie bag for his success, but the kudos of beating six million other players was worth far more to him. “I enjoyed 8-15 in the Ashes, but leading game week 37 in Fantasy Football runs it close as a sporting achievement,” he explained on his Instagram account.
He may have been at the top of the table for week 37, but he was still just 959,370th overall, and a long way from the impressive prize bundle on offer for the winner. This year’s champion, Yusuf Sheikh, received two VIP matchday experiences, a week’s holiday in Britain, a TAG Heuer watch, a game console and lots of other stuff, too. Not bad for a free entry competition.
With the Premier League season now over, our eyes turn east to Russia, and there are plenty of fantasy competitions to test your management skills. Like the Fantasy Premier League, most are free to enter, which means the prizes are not huge. For example, The Daily Telegraph is offering a prize of £25,000 while Fantasy Football Scout will be shelling out £1,000 in Amazon vouchers.
For bigger prizes, you need a bigger competition such as the official FIFA Fantasy World Cup, which will launch in early June. Alternatively, if you fancy yourself as a real Nostradamus, you can try predicting the outcome of all 64 matches correctly, for an opportunity to win £100 million with the BetStars 100 Million Challenge.
As ever with major competitions, it’s hard to say how far England will get in this World Cup. Hopefully, they will at least get further than they did last time. But either way, by playing in a fantasy league or results predictor, you’ll at least have something to shoot for in every game, and you could be shouting for £100 million!