Trialling an EFL fantasy game
It’s been a little while since I’ve churned out anything new, so I thought I’d take advantage of a brief lull to have a go at something ambitious.
Specifically, I’ve been mulling over the idea of adapting the hugely successful Premier League fantasy game for the EFL, given the level of interest when I’ve used their scoring system to rank EFL players. There definitely used to be an EFL version a few years back (as this page from 2013 shows), but it only covered the Championship and was quietly switched off, so for all I know it was deeply unpopular and I’m the only one who misses it.
However, seeing as the original purpose of this site was to give EFL clubs some of the coverage that fans of Premier League clubs can happily take for granted, I thought I’d have a crack at building and trialling an EFL fantasy game to see if there’s enough interest to consider running it properly next season.
There’s a long explanation of how this works below, but if you don’t fancy reading that then the short version is as follows:
I’ve built a team selection form to test using the midweek Championship fixtures here – if it works I’ll run a second test with Leagues 1 and 2 this weekend.
If you want to try it out, you’ll need to sign in to Google (to prevent multiple entries) and provide a Twitter account so that I can get in touch with you if needed (and congratulate you if you win).
The basic idea is that you pick 11 players: a goalkeeper, 3 defenders, 3 midfielders, 3 forwards and an additional outfield player as a captain. They score points in the same way as on the official Premier League fantasy game (apart from bonus points).
There’s a link to some stats at the top of the form which will help you pick your players.
The deadline for submitting teams is 6pm on Tuesday which gives me time to do some quick analysis ahead of the first game kicking off.
The rest of this post should hopefully answer any questions, but feel free to contact me on Twitter if anything’s amiss. I’m almost certain that the player data won’t be 100% accurate – in some cases their position may be debatable and there could be a few late transfers I missed. – please flag any that you think I’ve got wrong.
As my programming skills fall far short of what would be needed to replicate something as slick as the official FPL site, I’ve had to work within the limitations of the tools available and the game is simpler as a result.
The only way I could think of to make it work was using Google Forms and an incredibly helpful add-on called formRanger, which allows me to automatically pull through and update all the lists of players.
The trial version of the game works like this:
Picking a team
- There’s no squad management or transfers – players pick a completely fresh XI each week using a simple form.
- Players are classified using the four basic playing positions – goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward – using a combination of Football Manager and TransferMarkt data.
- However (to keep it interesting) players in each outfield position are divided into three separate lists based on their clubs’ position in the table (top 8 middle 8 and bottom 8) and you have to pick someone from each list.
- To keep the number of player choices manageable, each division has its own version of the game and any player who hasn’t featured in at least one of their club’s last three league matches is excluded.
- To keep things simple for the trial, I’ll award points in exactly the same way as the official Premier League game, using the official Opta data which comes through on the BBC live commentary feeds for each match.
- The only difference from the Premier League version is that there won’t be any bonus points. These require advanced data to calculate, so it’s easier just to ignore them for now.
- It’s far from impossible that there will be the occasional data error or some other sort of confusion (e.g. when a goal is subsequently awarded to another player). I’ll obviously look to rectify these where possible, but there might be an element of “my decision is final” to begin with as I’m just one guy trying to cobble something fun together in his spare time.
How to play
Here’s how I envisage the game working:
Accessing the game
- Ahead of a round of fixtures, I’ll tweet out a link to the forms for each division.
- I’ll also share a link to some supporting stats to help you make decisions.
- For the trial you’ll need both a Google and Twitter account, as I haven’t worked out a better way to track and manage submissions yet (although I’m open to suggestions).
- Signing in to Google (theoretically) prevents people from spamming the form multiple times, which has been a problem when I’ve used Forms before.
- Because Google sign-in information doesn’t get stored anywhere, the Twitter account info is so that I have a way to identify the winners.
- I promise I won’t use this information for anything else.
Submitting a team
- You pick your team by selecting 11 players from a series of drop-down lists before the deadline, which will typically be a few hours before the first match kicks off. This gives me time to analyse and share some numbers about selection patterns.
- You choose a goalkeeper, then three outfield players in each category i.e. three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards.
- For each outfield category, you pick one player from the current top 8, one from the middle 8 and one from the bottom 8. This provides a similar challenge to the budget in more complex games by forcing you to mix some bargains in with your more established stars.
- That gets us to 10 players, so to make it up to 11 and also keep the formations somewhat realistic, you also get to pick a captain from among every team’s top-performing outfield player (who don’t appear in the other lists).
- Just like in the official game, captains score you double points. I appreciate this is a bit more limiting that getting to choose any player as a captain and I might revisit this in a second version.
Tracking your score
- All submitted teams are stored in a honking great Google Sheet, which I’ll use to calculate everyone’s score once all of the matches are over.
- I’ll then convert this into a second sheet which lists everyone’s score in order and tweet out a link to this, along with whatever fun stats I can come up with.
- There’ll be no prizes beyond a sense of pride at this point I’m afraid.
- If the first few trials go well then I’ll aim to run it over the rest of the season, in which case I’d be able to track an overall manager league table for each division.
- If you come up with any ideas about how to make the game better (or think I’ve got a player’s information wrong) then please let me know via Twitter.
- I may not be able to adjust the format of the game before next season (assuming that it’s even successful enough to persist with for that long).
- It may be that there’s not an easy way to make certain changes (e.g. squad management, budgets, player prices etc) without some pretty serious effort, so it will probably remain a lot simpler than many of the Premier League versions.