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“The game done changed.” – Cutty“The game’s the same, just got more fierce.” – Slim Charles
There has been plenty written recently about the evolution and expansion of Fantasy Premier League (FPL), mostly in relation to overall rank.
Top 10k, top 50k, top 100k, top 1% – whatever old or new barometer you’re using to measure success, it’s becoming harder than ever to achieve it. And it’ll only get more challenging as FPL’s growth continues.
But it’s not just the numbers playing the game, it’s also the profile of it.
While the ‘content creator’ has been around for years now, 2022/23 felt like a landmark season.
Stormzy guested on one YouTuber’s FPL channel. Stormzy! Sky Sports News started dedicating a half-hour slot to FPL tips shortly before a Gameweek deadline. A bespoke talent management company started snapping up some well-followed, er, personalities from the Fantasy world.
The truth is, this isn’t just our game anymore.
FPL was once mostly a playground for reclusive geeks, the chess players, the poker enthusiasts, the John Peel listeners – and the media-shy. As for content, ‘The Scout’ (known as The Pundit back in the day) was limited to one solitary column a week and our own site didn’t even come into being until five years after Fantasy Premier League started.
Above: FPL content creation circa 2002
Now, it’s everywhere. YouTube is full of it, from team reveals to team leaks. BBC Sport lists the assist-makers for goals in their match coverage. The Athletic provides coverage of it. Jeff Stelling, amongst others, laments a captaincy fail or celebrates a haul live on air. And now we have FPL celebrities.
This isn’t a dig at anyone. Heck, Scout has done its bit by putting individuals on a podium as ‘Pro Pundits’, while this old chunk of coal actually does this thing for a living.
I think what many of us struggle to come to terms with is not the creation of content per se (some of it is genuinely excellent) but all the frills around it. Why is this person, with an inferior career history, followed on Twitter by more people than live in Maidstone? What has this individual done to be on telly, other than be far better looking, more charismatic and more articulate than I?
But the lionising of self-styled VIPs has been a growing phenomenon for years now. ‘Vlogger’ is seen as a viable career path. Every fifth bloke on the internet seems to be a Sidemen, whatever the hell that is. Kem from Love Island gets to play football with Gabriel Batistuta. It was almost inevitable that a burgeoning game like FPL would be set on a collision course with the cult of celebrity. You can bemoan the direction Fantasy has gone and be bewildered by the hero worship, but it’s just taken the same path as countless other juggernauts. Nor can you really blame anyone for exploiting it.
So there is no turning the clock back to the way FPL was, unnoticed and untainted by the wider world. Such is life. We old farts can add Fantasy Premier League coverage to music and haircuts as the things that ‘aren’t as good as they were back in my day’. But let’s be honest: we’re still here, despite the gripes. We may be mardier than we used to be but the game itself still retains the same lure that it did 20 years ago and keeps us coming back for more – even through all the noise, the sponsors and the experts.
I’d just like to sign off for the season by thanking you all for your continued use and support of the site, it really is very much appreciated.
We’ll be continuing to churn out the articles in the coming weeks, from Team of the Season to The Promoted series, for those that are sticking around. Before you know it, the fixtures will be out and FPL will have relaunched for 2023/24.
Have yourselves a great summer – and make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and Instagram page.
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