With the legalese out of the way, the 2015-16 English Premier League season is fast approaching. This off-season, football fans were dealt a major blow when Yahoo© decided to close shop and discontinue the Premier League Fantasy Football which left many fans dumbfounded, sad and infuriated. In search of a suitable replacement, the staff at Never Manage Alone discussed a few suitable options that could keep the fans preoccupied until fantasy football reemerges on the Yahoo© platform, most likely in the new "pay to play" format as there have been a few recent reports that Yahoo© is trying to ramp up tech to compete with other daily fantasy sports websites. Fantasy sports are now estimated to be a $2 billion business in the United States, with 57 million players. Each year these numbers explode, with more players flocking to join daily, weekly, or season-long online fantasy leagues with more than just bragging rights at stake.
In 2006, the U.S. Federal Government passed a law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that establishes fantasy sports as a "game of skill" and not a "game of chance", and hence created a giant loophole that allowed daily betting websites to host millions of dollars in transactions between players who organize and bet on new lineups each week. In particular, under 31 U.S. Code § 5362 (1) (ix), the term "bet" or wager" (which are illegal) does not include "participation in any fantasy or simulation sports game or educational game or contest in which (if the game or contest involves a team or teams) no fantasy or simulation sports team is based on the current membership of an actual team that is a member of an amateur or professional sports organization […] and that meets the following conditions:
(I) All prizes and awards offered to winning participants are established and made known to the participants in advance of the game or contest and their value is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of any fees paid by those participants.
(II) All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals (athletes in the case of sports events) in multiple real-world sporting or other events."
To put this in layman's terms, according to Act, it is legal for you to bet on your make-believe team when it plays other make-believe teams, but you cannot bet on real teams when they play other real teams.
So, how does any of this have anything to do with the English Premier League or fantasy football? It provides another alternative to those managers looking for a "pay to play" option for the upcoming season. While the football presence on these daily fantasy platforms has been largely nonexistent compared to that of other major American sports, there are online sites that offer the English Premier League option. One of these major daily fantasy sports sites is DraftKings©. Let's review.
DraftKings© football contests are held each day there are games. As a result, there are no season long or weekly competitions as each day is treated separately. Rosters, however, must include players from at least 3 different EPL teams. This means that standalone Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday games become part of the previous game day.
Players can enter into multiple competitions (discussed on the DraftKings© website) which close approximately 1 minute before the start of the first game. There is no penalty or requirement to play on a weekly basis. For every competition, managers can edit their rosters an unlimited number of times and can continue to edit players that have not started playing yet after the competition start time. Take, for example, the Saturday, August 8, games. Managers will be able to pick players from the Manchester United vs. Tottenham game and subsequently have the ability to adjust their rosters for the 10:00 am EST games and the 12:30 pm EST game (Chelsea vs. Swansea). This is a major plus reducing the risk of your players not starting.
In each game, managers will be assigned a fixed salary cap of $50,000 that they can use to draft their entire 8-player roster. Yes, you read it right, 8-player roster. This certainly makes picking players a much more complicated ordeal, especially on a game day where only a few teams are playing.
The 8 roster positions are: GK, D, D, M, M, F, F, Flex (which allows you to add a player to any position expect for GK). As a result, the only available formations are 3/2/2, 2/3/2 or a 2/2/3. There is no bench, no captains. Player salaries will change on a weekly basis, depending on the player’s performance. Points are updated automatically and winners will be based on the total points scored across each manager’s 8 player roster. The scoring summary is as follows:
- Goal +10
- Assist +6
- Shot +1
- Shot on Goal +1
- Cross +1
- Foul Drawn +0.75
- Red Card -1
- Clean Sheet (D/GK) +5
- One Goal Allowed (D/GK) +2
- Save (GK) +2
- Penalty Kick Save (GK) +3
- Win (GK) +5
- Goal Allowed (GK) -2
As you can see, there are some very peculiar scoring rules. In particular, there are no negative points for a Yellow Card, penalty miss, own goal, or a foul committed. A shot, whether on target or not, as well as a cross whether successful or not, are credited with a +1. This means that investing in players who like to shoot (Sergio Aguero, Graziano Pelle, Harry Kane) and cross (Kieran Trippierr, Dimitri Payet) may be key. There are no points given for corner won, pass intercepted, blocked shot and tackle won. The lack of the latter three statistics make for a strategy to stay away from picking central defenders (John Terry, Ashley Williams, Jose Fonte) or defensive-minded midfielders (Nemanja Matic, Mile Jedinak). Another interesting, albeit strange scoring rule is that defenders and goalkeepers get a +2 for only one goal allowed. Also, GK/D must play at least 60 minutes to qualify for a Clean Sheet compared to the 75 minutes in Yahoo Fantasy game.
DraftKings© website has a decent looking interface and the registration is very simple. There are daily free games, but most games have entry fees that range anywhere from $1 to $100+ per competition or a head-to-head match up. I will post more on the player values once this information becomes available, although anyone who has played or will be playing DraftKings© this season, please feel free to chime in.