A Guide to Fantasy Football

Top Tips

What You Need to Know

  1. Do your research before you pick your team. Don’t just opt for your favourite players but make sure your decisions are based on cold, hard statistics.
  2. Don’t be tempted to blow all your budget on a couple of big-name signings and then make up the numbers with some cheap buys. Ensure you have quality running right through your team.
  3. You need to be ruthless when it comes to dropping underperforming players or even admitting to a mistake and trading one of your big stars in.
  4. Keep on top of the latest football news. If one of your players is suffering from a dip in form, you need to know about it.
  5. Be aware that new players may come into the league and these may be better than the ones you have.
  6. Rules regarding budgets, squad size and how points are earned vary from league to league, most of which are run online.


For many sports fans, being able to manage a team of the world’s best players is the ultimate dream. Fantasy football gives you the chance to do just this, kind of. Quite simply, the game involves picking 11 players from a fixed pool – whether it’s the Premier League or the World Cup – and competing against others in your fantasy league, using your men’s performances to calculate your own.

According to sporting folklore, fantasy football can be traced back to 1960s America, where a small group of Oakland Raiders enthusiasts challenged one another to pick the best line-up for their beloved club. Some years later, the hobby moved across the Atlantic, where it was picked up by ‘association football’ fans, and started to evolve into the multi-million pound industry of today.

Both the start of the English Premier League in 1992 and then the internet have been credited with driving forward the popularity of fantasy football in the UK.

How it Works

Assembling a Team

There are many variants to fantasy football, usually involving the size of the league you play in or the pool of players you are able to pick from. Generally speaking, however, what they will all have in common is that you will be required to ‘buy’ 11 players from a fixed pool.

While there will be no rules as to how you divide your fantasy fund up, you will need to stick to a fixed budget. Additionally, you may be required to stick to a fixed formation (for example, playing four midfielders and just two strikers). Some leagues will also allow you to assemble a squad, including substitutes on a matchday, rather than a team of 11.

Keep on eye on the form of any players you’re thinking of signing up. The papers may talk them up, but it’s worth studying their performances, even if it’s just the TV highlights. After all, you may they aren’t worth the money.

Earning Points

With your team selected, you can now start playing and picking up points. Again, how points are allocated varies from league to league, though in general, your players will clock up points for scoring or setting up goals, netting a hat trick or, in the case of defenders and goalkeepers, keeping a clean sheet.

At the same time, however, your players can lose you points. Picking up yellow and red cards, scoring own goals, missing penalties or, in the case of defensive players, conceding goals, can all lead to points being lost.

It’s well worth looking into how points are awarded in the fantasy league you intend to join before you pick your team. For instance if, like the Daily Telegraph, the league awards a relatively high number of points for creating goals, then it’s a good idea to opt for creative midfield players. Conversely, if clean sheets are particularly well-rewarded, consider investing a significant proportion of your budget in your back line.

Making Changes to a Fantasy football Team

As well as assembling a team at the start of the season, some leagues also allow you to dabble in the transfer market and trade players. This can be a useful way of rectifying some of the mistakes you may have made at the start or bringing in a new player if one of your original men loses form or picks up a serious injury.

The Sun’s Dream Team league, for instance, allows its players to make three transfers per season, while the Metro also allows its players to make mid-season changes. However, you will always be required to balance your books and stick to the original budget.

How to Get Involved

The simplest way of getting involved in fantasy football is to join one of the dozens of competitions run by websites and newspapers. This way, someone else does all the hard work – ie watching every player in every game and compiling their stats – for you. Notably, you don’t have to join a faceless league of thousands to do this. Instead, some organisers allow you to set up your own mini leagues, enabling you to compete against friends or colleagues.

Some of the most popular fantasy football leagues in the UK include Metro fantasy football , the official Premier League fantasy football competition and the UEFA Champions League game, with all of these free to play and offering the chance to win prizes including cash and match tickets.

Further Reading


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