Comment: Reality of the Fantasy fad
Sunday 30 January 1994
Fantasy Football is big business. Thousands participate in it. It is featured in the national press; it appears on television; most important of all, it is hip. David Baddiel, Frank Skinner, Roddy Doyle, Roy Hattersley are all at it, and it has taken root among the chatterering classes to such an extent that it is surprising Michael Portillo did not add it to his list of modern social ills.
It would be tedious to explain precisely what it is: roughly, it involves players 'managing' their own imaginary sides, whose fortunes are determined by the fortunes of real players in football's real leagues, although there is no need to visit a real ground in order to play. (The game is coordinated by computer.)
What is more interesting is the way in which fantasy leagues have caught the imagination of predominantly middle-class people who, 10 years ago, or even five years ago, would not have been so openly enthusiastic about anything connected with football.
Even though the game has still has its deep-rooted problems with self-image, the fact is that football is becoming respectable again. The effects of the Taylor Report, while driving up admission prices, have made many football grounds less hostile environments (Leeds United fans notwithstanding), while high-profile football fans from David Mellor to John Major have reinforced the message that you do not have to be a social outcast to love our national game. And then there was Nick Hornby, whose excellent book about being a football fan, Fever Pitch, was enthusiastically embraced by London's literati, and has helped to spawn a new soccerati. In one leap, following football went from being the activity of brutes and philistines to being sophisticated and chic.
Fantasy Football (a white- collar rather than blue-collar pursuit) is very much part of this movement, and clearly anything that encourages the development of the game is to be welcomed. But does it really promote serious interest in football? Will it actually make people more likely to attend matches? The cynical answer is no. Fantasy Football encourages people to be interested in the performances of individual players, rather than teams. The football question of the Nineties is not 'Did Spurs play well?' but 'Did Nick Barmby get an assist?'
People who call themselves football fans play out their fantasies on computer networks with no more romance than stockbrokers playing the market. The human, and the parochial, side of the game - the misery of watching your team lose 1-0 in a scrappy game on a wet weekday evening - has been exchanged for imaginary wheeling and dealing. There once was a time when the fantasy element came from watching football.
Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy
Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'
Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'
Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised
Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'
Latest in Sport
Manchester United official team photo: Antonio Valencia and Anderson pull the funniest faces
Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt, including Danny Welbeck must be more clinical and Hector Bellerin debut
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Liverpool 2 Ludogorets 1 player ratings
Luis Suarez has given Liverpool's opponents more hope, says former striker Michael Owen
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Say yes to 'no-poo': It's been three years since I stopped washing my hair
- 4 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...