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Exploring the Dark Side of Fantasy Football: Are Content Creators Really to Blame for its Dangerous Affiliation with Gambling Companies?

Exploring the Dark Side of Fantasy Football: Are Content Creators Really to Blame for its Dangerous Affiliation with Gambling Companies?

When Ivan Toney was slapped with an eight-month ban on betting there were questions raised on the hypocrisy of the punishment. He is not the first, former players like Joey Barton have been indicted with similar punishments for involvement in betting in the past. Football, in general, has always tried to maintain a narrow line between gambling and the sport in itself. Hell, even Stoke City’s stadium name is bet365 stadium courtesy of their affiliation with the company.

Toney’s acts, therefore, were not seen as completely atrocious and unimaginable. Instead of feelings of he should be banished from the nooks and corners of the football club, Brentford fans and many others in general had a more sympathetic approach. What do you expect from young players when there are rampant and open betting opportunities always in front of them?

English club football’s associations with gambling companies are old and long. It has only perpetuated more with the incredible rise in popularity of the game in a global fan base. Globalization and English football have compiled with each other like a married couple. It is indeed one of the primary sources of economy for the UK government supporting over one million jobs, yearly. Alongside the increased popularity of club football, Fantasy Premier League has seen growth by leaps and bounds. Over ten million players were participating in the game last season.

The huge influx of players in the Fantasy Premier League has coincided with newer fun opportunities to earn one’s livelihood. Many popular content creators of Fantasy Premier League have slowly made the transition of quitting their old jobs and making Fantasy Football a full-time job. There are serious hard works that go behind enabling of being a full-time content creator and is no leisurely job. Social media sites, mostly Twitter, have become communities for content creators and enthusiasts of the game alike. There are discussions about the games including their impact on individual or macro level impact on FPL, even arranged meetings in real life, all in all, another budding community evolving based on football.

So, when BBC published an article highlighting the works of gambling companies targeting Fantasy players, instead of having a shocked reaction, it solidified notions of what was already known. Discussions had already seldom taken place regarding the rise of gambling adverts in various parts of the Fantasy Premier League’s communities as mentioned. They were though often either buried or lacked a focal point to change or address issues more assertively.

The article on BBC highlighted an episode of The FPL Wire, a popular Fantasy show, promoting Fairplay Exchange, a gambling site in an episode of their show. Content creators, Zophar and FPL General, both extremely popular and known faces, FPL General was a near about regular on the FPL show broadcasted on Premier League TV, were the two participants of the FPL Wire, at the time of the promotion. Zophar too, has done multiple appearances, for Premier League TV.

In reply to the article, The FPL Wire published on their official Twitter page, highlighting points of having removed the three episodes with Fairplay Exchange’s advert involved. There were no compensations received from the gambling company and they won’t receive, and that, it was the first time, The FPL Wire had any sort of interactions with gambling sites vouching there won’t be again in the future. They intend to create the best content only concerning the Fantasy Premier League.

The article of BBC with Zophar and FPL General’s picture showcased as the preview picture for the piece can be seen by many other big content creators, as them getting away with a serious one. Indeed with the influx of players in Fantasy Premier League, there has been a steady and rapid rise in the growth of adverts from gambling companies. They are often promoted by some of the largest accounts in the game, FPL Salah or Big Man Bakar, and plenty of others. These are the first names one will come across in their introductions to the FPL game as more engaged managers. BBC’s article highlighted multiple points about how the Fantasy community is seen as a fertile breeding ground for future gamblers. The increased targeting of the community is deliberate and aggressive.             

It must always be noted, the game, Fantasy Premier League in itself, is part of the English Premier League having an age bar of 13 years, and even then one can participate with the consent of guardians. BBC’s statistics show 43% of the participants in the game players are under the age of 30. 25% of the total FPL players suffer from internet addiction. The article winds into multiple threads and narratives, involving statements from heads of gambling rehabs and former gamblers wanting major content creators to stray away from involvements with betting agencies.

Fantasy Football Scout, one of the foremost and oldest websites to generate content on FPL got their name highlighted multiple times for their associations with BET 365 and Fan Team. Fantasy Football Fix, another similar website to Fantasy Football Scout explained in the article, how the association works, a member registering on the betting side and placing a bet would immediately mean compensation for Fantasy Football Fix, if the person had signed up for the betting company from their site.

Mark Sutherns, creator of the site, Fantasy Football Scout, perhaps first starting the idea back in the day of pairing up content creation with Fantasy Premier League, a legend in these parts took to Twitter, to express his opinion on the matter. While acknowledging the wrongs involved in promoting betting sites by content creators, he expressed another side of the coin, of making mistakes under commercial pressure back in the day when Fantasy Football Scout was growing as a site, but no social media or BBC was breeding down his neck to vilify him. As far as self-promotion is concerned, from a practical standpoint according to Sutherns to obliterate so is not viable, because, for full-time content creators, it is after all a job and self-promotion is part of it.

On the surface of it, it is easy to see what is happening here. Gambling addictions have ripped apart families and have taken away lives. Fantasy Premier League serves as a viable alternative for former gamblers because of the no-money scenario involved. The problem starts when FPL for sufferers of gambling, acting as cigarettes without nicotine, are drawn or lured back again into the world that made them suffer once, through these multiple promotions.

In the given circumstance, placing the blame on the promoted gambling adverts by popular content creators takes away a chunk of the problem easily. They are to blame, they are the evils, teenagers, are getting targeted through FPL because of the content creators. It is of course an extremely wrongful act on the part of the part of every person involving themselves with the betting companies. Is that the end all and be all of the matter when it comes to sports close affinity to gambling?

The FPL content creators are pawns merely serving the interest of these greedy companies by bringing an audience the companies adhere to as prime future customers or sheep. However, one likes to see it. In our increasingly more and more corporate world, young people are losing their attunement with themself because of long working hours, often being stuck in soulless jobs, getting further away from any sort of humane activities of the young and the youth. There is of course to accompany the misery is the ever-increasing rise in the cost of living. The rise of the ultra-right-wing governments as a phenomenon all over the world has led to hate speeches and spewing of overall negativity towards one’s neighbor.

These are truly testing times, with more and more, young people struggling to hold on to their daily jobs due to work stress or mental health or physical issues. To survive alternate paths are trying to be created for sustainment that content creation in Fantasy Football probably falls into. For the rest stuck in the circle of corporate long hours, gambling, or other such possible addictions, it can be nicotine addictions as well, provides often a sense of much-needed enthrallment. The gambling companies understand these nuances of young psychologies better than anyone. They bring in the pawns of the game, to target this misery, bettering their pockets while the victims fight within themselves even more.