Pro Pundit Teams

How the sunk cost fallacy can influence Fantasy managers’ decisions

In his latest Pro Pundits column, former Fantasy Premier League champion Simon March looks at how future decisions can be influenced by past ‘investments’.


We’re at that stage of the season where the decisions we FPL managers are facing are becoming ever more difficult, so I think it’s a good time to consider a cognitive bias that may well be affecting how we make those decisions; ‘sunk cost fallacy’.

A ‘sunk cost’ is essentially any cost that has already been incurred and cannot be retrieved. For example, the £200 I gave those men in a van outside the student union for some dodgy speakers back when I was 18, that money has gone, I can’t get it back. I really should stop thinking about it… 

The ‘sunk cost fallacy’ describes the way in which our future decisions are influenced by such past ‘investments’. Now, if we were being entirely rational and logical about things, all future expenditures would be based on maximising future gains but, because of the sunk cost fallacy, we often continue with an endeavour or ‘throw good money after bad’ in order to psychologically justify past decisions.

In FPL, sunk cost fallacy manifests itself in a few different ways, perhaps the most literal of which being when we have a lot of money tied up in a player due to them having increased in price during our ownership. We’re often less inclined to sell such players, even when we probably should, because we are overly influenced by what we’ve already invested.

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For example, I, like many, bought Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (£10.0m) when he was much cheaper so I have a lot of money tied up in him right now.

Of course, it’s easy to say in hindsight following his one-pointer and potentially significant injury that I should have transferred him out but, even before this Gameweek, there were objective arguments for doing so.

Vardy’s fixtures weren’t brilliant, his form was seemingly even worse and he looked to be dropping in price. Meanwhile, I could have flipped that investment to purchase Liverpool assets who have great fixtures, largely great form, a Double Gameweek and many of whom will increase in price.

On a purely logical, cost/benefit decision basis, such a move made a lot of sense, and I knew this, but I still didn’t do it, in part, because I didn’t want to lose the money I’d gained from Vardy’s previous price increases. Two other cognitive biases; loss aversion and status quo bias may also have been at play here, but those are for a different article.

Another, more abstract, manifestation of sunk cost fallacy comes from our desire to justify past decisions, often to our detriment. For example, in Gameweek 22, I was faced with using or losing one of my two free transfers so, with extreme reluctance, I sold Watford’s Ben Foster (£4.9m) and bought in West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski (£4.9m).

Of course, Fabianski was infamously injured after 14 minutes, thus scoring one point, while Foster, naturally, scored six. Since Fabianski was my only playing goalkeeper, I was then forced to use yet another transfer to make up for the transfer that, you recall, I didn’t want to make in the first place. Foster was still the goalkeeper that I really wanted but did I buy him back? Oh no. I had to mentally ‘justify’ my previous (wrong) transfer and so I made another (wrong) transfer and bought in Southampton’s Alex McCarthy (£4.4m), who scored one point compared to Foster’s nine (…nine!).

Anyway, thank you for coming to my therapy session… wait, sorry, I was writing an article wasn’t I. The moral of this story is that, were I not influenced by sunk cost fallacy, I might have reversed my goalkeeper decision but, instead, I lost out even more because, instead of focusing my decisions on maximising my future potential gains, I made decisions with the intention of trying to justify my past decisions.

Sure, maybe I’m being a little hard on myself and these decisions may still pay off (McCarthy kept a clean sheet in Gameweek 24) but, you know, I’m trying to make a point here… and that point is; while it’s hard to accept when you’ve been wrong, it’s even harder to later accept being wrong multiple times in an effort to mentally ‘correct’ past wrong decisions which, by virtue of being in the past, physically cannot be corrected.

Sunk cost fallacy is a pretty deep-rooted bias and, as you’ve seen, I still commit it despite being well aware that I’m doing it but, ultimately, FPL only has 38 Gameweeks and every Gameweek counts so we don’t have the luxury of living in the past. Literally, the only thing that matters in this game are the points you score going forward so we’d do well to ensure that we make our decisions on that basis, no matter how loudly our past decisions might continue to echo in our ears.


Simon March is a member of our Pro Pundits initiative, a team of Fantasy managers here to bring you regular advice and updates on their teams. Simon won the FPL title in 2014/15 and has become a fixture on the punditry circuit ever since.


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1,352 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Dynamic Duos
    • 6 Years
    1 month, 11 hours ago

    Would it be fpl suicide to use WC now?

    1. Holmes (specialist in failu…
      • 6 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      No, many are doing it

    2. tisza
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 5 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      Not suicide. Going to depend on current team and rank.

      Would wait until FA cup round and next draw is done for a clearer picture on coming fixtures and DGW possibilities.

      One of the cons of late DGW is how similar teams tend to be and so can effect rank change possibilities

    3. Brosstan
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 5 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      Can't suicide if you are already dead, so I played mine

    4. DontPiqueTooSoon
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      Not suicide. If its the right time for you then go for it. It depends on your current team. Things change so rapidly at the moment you might play it too early and in two weeks there is another crisis. I would wait at least until its clearer re Mane/Vardy injuries & the blank & double GWs

    5. Kun Tozser
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      Depends on your team

  2. JelliedSpark968
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    1 month, 11 hours ago

    This is pretty outlandish...does anyone like the look of Cahill/Ward?

    1. Old Man
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 8 Years
      1 month, 10 hours ago

      They're OK but I prefer women myself.
      FPL wise, not much.

  3. Karan14
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 3 Years
    1 month, 11 hours ago

    Choose:

    A) Aguero & Son
    B) Auba & KDB

    1. Here's Tom with the We…
      • 8 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      B

  4. Here's Tom with the We…
    • 8 Years
    1 month, 11 hours ago

    WC draft, Mark 2
    Foster McCarthy
    TAA Digne Lascelles Lund Williams
    KDB Salah Son Grealish Hayden
    Ings Auba Jimi

    Thoughts please?

  5. JelliedSpark968
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    1 month, 11 hours ago

    Which Palace defender do I go for?

    1. Dynamic Duos
      • 6 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      Tomkins

  6. Bobby
    • 10 Years
    1 month, 11 hours ago

    I know I’m clutching at straws but is there any chance Mané may play vs West Ham?

    1. Chucky
      • 6 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      slight chance to get off the bench.wont start

    2. DontPiqueTooSoon
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      There's always a chance. Likely the West Ham game will come too soon. More likely he is back for Soton or GW26 I think depending on scan results etc.

    3. One Wheels Enough
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        why would they need him, it's the hammers 🙂

      • rokonto
        • 4 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Mané....
        I get the feeling that a hamstring injury means he will never be the same again.
        Do we have any data on whether or not this is the case with hammies.
        Do we have past hamstring injury sufferers to go by?
        Has mané had one before?

        1. rokonto
          • 4 Years
          1 month, 10 hours ago

          Sorry I meant this as a separate question

          1. rokonto
            • 4 Years
            1 month, 10 hours ago

            See below

      • FPLGraham
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 1 Year
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Until 100% ruled out yeah. Depends what this scan gives.

        Whole thing was a bit strange really... went down like he was waiting for treatment to continue then immediately got up and went off, like it was suddenly decided that he’d just come off.

    4. Chucky
      • 6 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      would you WC this team?

      Hendo
      Robbo VVD Lundy
      Salah KDB Traore Grealish Maddy
      Auba DCL

      Button Ings Lascelles Rico 0.8

      1. Traction Engine Foot
        • 2 Years
        1 month, 11 hours ago

        No, looks fine.

        1. Here's Tom with the We…
          • 8 Years
          1 month, 11 hours ago

          No chance! Only Maddy I’m not keen on.

      2. DontPiqueTooSoon
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        1 month, 11 hours ago

        No

      3. Chucky
        • 6 Years
        1 month, 11 hours ago

        cheers all..

    5. ThisTimeNxtYrRodney
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 11 hours ago

      Mane to Salah. I have to make the move before any price rise/fall otherwise I am priced out. Can anybody help with any info or point me to any source for an update on mane injury. Klopp said that he was being scanned as he spoke. Any news would be helpful. Remember this site is for sharing.

      Pretty please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

      1. Amey
        • 1 Year
        1 month, 11 hours ago

        I'd definitely wait.
        Can take a hit if needed. Imagine salah injured before playing Southampton

    6. ThisTimeNxtYrRodney
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 10 hours ago

      That's the very sensible reply that I would have given over the last 13 seasons and thanks for your advice, I will wait. I am usually the most patient of players but I've just this week reassessed my aims for this season. OR is usually my priority but sitting at 90k it's going to be fairly difficult to beat my last seasons ranking, so I've decided to aim for promotion from the FFS H2H league 2 division 1 to the league 1 (top division) so I prefer not to take any hits, as they usually end up costly. But, as you say, the scenario of a salah injury before the Southampton game would be devastating (especially if mane were to return for that game).

      Thanks Amey for the benefit of your experience. I will take your advice.
      How many other managers have reassessed their targets ?

    7. rokonto
      • 4 Years
      1 month, 10 hours ago

      Mané.... 
      I get the feeling that a hamstring injury means he will never be the same again.
      Do we have any data on whether or not this is the case with hammies.
      Do we have past hamstring injury sufferers to go by?
      Has mané had one before?

      1. GreennRed
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 8 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Michael Owen. Affects speedy players.

        Way to early to see how severe it is and if he will be the same player again.

      2. Holmes (specialist in failu…
        • 6 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        Dont think it was that serious. Its good that he didnt try to continue.

      3. jtreble
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 3 Years
        1 month, 10 hours ago

        It's not a hammy.

    8. joeb1kinobe
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      1 month, 6 hours ago

      Great stuff. If Kahneman and Tversky did FPL!