Oh, Fantasy Premier League! You can’t bear the stress it brings every week. But you can’t live without it! Ever since coming into prominence, the FPL frenzie has collided with the social media boom to result in an addictive combination.
Currently, more than 2 million users are registered, including certain Premier League stars having made teams including themselves to compete with their mates. While a small portion remains inactive, the majority of the fanbase is obsessed with it.
From frantically making transfers before a game-week to deciphering which combination would grant the highest points, the rising competitiveness has made the game a truly challenging test.
Indeed, I myself have often spent hours finding out the most economically befitting options in order to fill like the likes of Mo Salah, Harry Kane, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, among others, into my team. One has to be properly committed to the cause in order to succeed in this game.
As a matter of fact, World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen boasted about being the number 1 FPL player worldwide on Twitter last month. For a multi-time Chess champion, achieving this feat in an online game being held in such high regard proves how challenging it is.
That being said, the users nowadays aren’t content on being reliant upon internet stats or the extravagant FPL shows being produced to feed information the growing audience. Those who opt to take this dead serious are willing to grind out hours to watch the Premier League games, even those involving lower-half teams.
Now, this is not to suggest that the League’s viewership was struggling prior to the FPL boom. But now that there’s something worth keeping an eye out for, the fans are becoming more avid watchers and tapping into their analytical skills to decipher which players could guarantee them long-term success.
Considering how the “top-six” sides have some of the priciest players in the game, there’s a need to pick those from the relatively weaker sides to bring that perfect balance to a side. With the likes of John Lundstrum and Dean Henderson from Sheffield United or Teemu Pukki from Norwich City, these budget picks have gained popularity this season.
But in order to discover these hidden gems before the majority, the players are compelled to follow games to find out who has the most influence over these sides. As a result, these relatively unpopular sides are getting more exposure from the growing masses, while the footballing IQ of the general fans improves.
Of course, purists might scoff at the thought at following games at the prospect of divine reward, but at least the mid-table or lower-half Premier League teams are seeing their reach expand beyond their local borders. A side like Wolves, who were only promoted last season, have become a heartthrob for their likable underdog narrative and hard-working style.
Even Sheffield United, who are enjoying a debut campaign of their dreams under Chris Wilder’s unique stewardship, are getting rightful praise from all around for their excellent work. Rather than just getting the critics’ love, they find appreciation from fans of the big top-four sides as well thanks to the reach of FPL.
In the end, it’s the Premier League that wins. The organizers are having a field day with more viewers watching games regardless of their stature. As a result, streaming platforms are being promoted more and more. With the internet availability expanding in recent years, many prefer to watch games on a streaming platform than on a TV.
While the beautiful game is certainly benefitting from more eyeballs, the victims for this FPL craze is being felt by the footballers themselves. The top players around the league face the harshest criticism due to the slightest of errors which perhaps their manager even tends to overlook on occasions.
Be it by missing a penalty, scuffing a chance from a promising situation or going a few weeks without scoring or assisting, these players face brutal judgment from fans angry for not getting virtual points off their heroics. Goalkeepers are cursed on conceding, defenders for getting booked or midfielders for not getting more involved in creating goals.
Of course, certain players love the attention they get. Raheem Sterling, for example, made a tweet recently reveling in by replying to the official Fantasy Premier League Twitter account. But the same fans lauding him one day are cursing or binning him from their teams the day he fails to stand out.
Even managers aren’t immune from backlash. Pep Guardiola is every FPL player’s public enemy No. 1 owing to his tendency to heavily rotate his team, even dropping the likes of Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling and often Leroy Sané to the bench. Similarly, Jose Mourinho and Maurizio Sarri were also criticized for protecting players from injuries by rotating them.
In more ways than one, the virtual game has been encouraging more toxic fans to spew their venom onto the players. With social media being difficult to ignore, they’re sometimes reinvigorated by the criticism but also end up crumbling under the pressure on other occasions.
But it also has been encouraging fans to engage with each other, have proper discussions on the Premier League and get out of their shell to experience more games than just that of the top sides.
The FPL boom isn’t dying down anytime soon. With more modes (including the new Draft mode) being introduced along with how it’s been advertised to grab eyeballs, the game will keep on waging a competitive war amongst fans for years to come.
One can hope this can help elevate the magic of the Premier League, giving every participant the respect and admiration they deserve for producing thrilling contests week in, week out.