Comment: Reality of the Fantasy fad

THERE must be some people in Britain who still do not know what Fantasy Football is. But their number grows smaller by the day.

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.

Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
News
news
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
life
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultants - IT - Trainee / Experienced

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40-50K first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Primary teachers needed for supply in Huntingdon

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers need...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

KS2 Teacher Plymouth

£21500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone