Fantasy League Is 25: Heres Why I Still Love Football's Original Auction Game

If you want to know what it’s really like to manage a real-life Premier League team, there is nothing like the Fantasy League Auction game.
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If you want to know what it’s really like to manage a real-life Premier League team, there is nothing like the Fantasy League Auction game.
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I loved Fantasy League Auction from the off, and I’m going to set up a league with The Original Fantasy League on their Auction game again this year. Before the 93-94 season 10 of us created The Shuttleworth’s League after the underground bar we drank in on London’s Charing Cross Road, also known as The Arts Bar. It was a great great bar, some sort of Theatre-land members club, and Fantasy League Auction just gave us another reason to go there to catch up with how everyone was doing.

I can still remember a lot of players from my original team: in midfield I had Le Tissier, Sharpe, Speed and Sheridan. All were scoring regularly and getting assists. I think Scott Sellars was on the bench. Denis Irwin was a goal scoring fullback.

Up front Shearer was the main man, but it was my pocket battleships Rod Wallace and Mark Stein who went on a spectacular 3 month run leading up to and through Christmas. Rod scored 8 goals in 8 games for Leeds United, and when he got injured I replaced him with Stein who promptly did the same thing for Chelsea.

Fantasy League Auction is not only about your bidding and scouting skills, but also your level of wit. The stand-out team name from that year in our league was Cybil Shepherd’s Bush. My own team was Honest It’s True. Clearly wit was on holiday. We had started late, two weeks into the season, but despite that Honest It’s True managed to finish 67th out of the whole country. I'm not sure where Cybil ended up.

The Auction game was what initially made fantasy football great. 25 years ago when it was first started by a small passionate group of football fans – having been inspired by American basketball fantasy leagues – the novelty of being able to show your football knowledge by selecting a suitable team to win you points every week was enhanced by your ability to compete at the auction. Thankfully you can still hold an authentic player auction at Fantasy League Auction.

For the uninitiated it goes like this: only one team in your league can own an individual player. That is the key. Eden Hazard cannot play for all 12 teams! He plays for one. And to buy him you need to bid against your rival managers. In a room (or pub) with all your opposition present and correct. Which means you might get carried away and spend so much of your budget on one player you’re trawling through the bargain basement Free Agents market. Which, if you know football, is not bad thing. You have a budget, an auctioneer and if you’ve planned it in advance you’ve worked out who you’re going to blast your cash on and who you’re hoping to pick up on a free. It’s a brilliant night out. Tense. Passionate. Very, very funny.

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It’s identical to real football transfer strategy. The game is built around assists, great keepers, functioning goal-scorers and great free transfers. Once everyone has spent all of their budget you just go round the table one by one and pick a player no-one else has bought. For free. Just like real-life Premier League managers do.

When Fantasy League Auction started in 1991 it pre-dated mass email use and the internet. All the transactions and information happened by post. You had a squad of fifteen with two subs allowed each week. You got three points for a goal or if defenders kept a clean sheet, and two for an assist, but you lost points for goals conceded. 

You’d make your changes by post or phone and then wait to see how your team had done. It was very, very difficult, in those pre-Vine, pre-Twitter, pre MBM, pre-Sky, pre-BT days, to know whether your player had got an assist. You’d desperately scan Teletext or listen to the match report updates to see if the commentator said “and it was a lovely ball in from Lee Sharpe that the striker buried.” If a Norwich full-back or an Oldham midfielder you’d picked up on a free got you got you an assist it was a total bonus. Strangely it also made you interested in the fortunes of other clubs. It was also pretty hard to find out if a less well known player in your team was injured.

On the Tuesday everyone would get a letter with the league standings and a guide to how many points your players had won for you. It was then you found out that Culverhouse hadn’t even played. 

Thankfully Fantasy League Auction is still going strong and is this year celebrating its 25th Season Anniversary. Of course things have moved on and you can now manage your league via their website or mobile app.

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We’re going to set up a Sabotage Times writers and guests Auction league. We’ll include two ST readers who can get themselves to London for the auction. All you’ve got to do to be in the mix to take part is tweet us at @SabotageTimes and @FantasyLeague and say "I’m up for the Auction".

Fantasy League are also offering a Sabotage Times full Readers League at a discounted entry fee.

Fantasy League are a small business packed with knowledgeable and passionate people running the game, so get behind the fantasy football originators and get yourself an Auction going now!!

For more info, visit the Fantasy League Auction website.

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