In his latest Pro Pundits column, former Fantasy Premier League champion Simon March looks at the issue of early team news.
One of Fantasy Premier League’s most controversial topics this season has been that of ‘early team news’ as several Twitter accounts have recently emerged with information before the deadline.
Sometimes this takes the form of a diligent and well-connected journalist who has spoken to the relevant club before kick-off, while others are more clandestine in nature.
Some FPL managers have shown gratitude but, recently, among them, these accounts may have noticed some growing murmurs of discontent.
Among those are FPL enthusiasts who suggest that early team news is unfair and some have gone as far as to suggest that it might even be ruining the game.
So, the inevitable question is: is early team news fair?
For many, accessing this information is viewed simply as an element of their preparation. Fantasy football is generally (though not always…) something that rewards effort and dedication. If you make the effort to track down and monitor early team news, then sometimes you can benefit from it in the same way that studying underlying stats, or watching a lot of football can inform you too.
Now that so much information is so easily distilled, disseminated and digested in relation to FPL, the advantage gap between those who take it very seriously and those who approach it more casually is narrowing.
Early team news, while not hard to access, is something that requires active seeking and monitoring and, despite the recent early team news craze, this is something most managers will not do.
It’s also fair to question exactly how much of an advantage early team news actually offers. In most cases, it will only be useful for the first fixture(s) of the Gameweek and the window to act on it is typically five to ten minutes maximum. That’s hardly enough time to re-do a whole Wildcard team.
Also, if you’re taking out a player who has been revealed as being benched, there’s nothing to say that this player won’t come on and score more than the player you started ahead of them. Perhaps it edges the probabilities in your favour, but maybe not by as much as some will suggest.
It, therefore, follows that there are several arguments against early team news. Firstly, for some, it reduces the skill associated with predicting line-ups.
It’s true that, as Neale demonstrates on this very site each week, there is a skill to deciphering what managers actually mean when they say a certain player has ‘a knock’, ‘a chance’ or is ‘undroppable’ (we’re looking at you Pep, we’re looking directly at you). It also takes a lot of effort to monitor press conferences, injury news etc…
While it takes less effort to absorb this information, it still takes some effort and some judgement, all of which becomes less significant when you can access reliable early team news. So, you could argue that early team news reduces a skill and/or effort element from the game and, potentially, even a fun element (not that having a player benched is ever ‘fun’ exactly).
Another argument against early team news is that, while this it is made public, it is not always ‘accessible’ to all. The typical conduit for early team news is Twitter, which as we continue to see demonstrated in all walks of life, is not actually a particularly large proportion of the wider population.
It’s not that hard to find so-called ‘in the know’ accounts if you want to monitor them or to find the information reproduced on FPL forums, those who are well-connected with clubs and pass things on in the week rather than on FPL deadline day, so I’m not convinced that this is a huge barrier, but it is a barrier nonetheless.
Furthermore, accessing this information is not always straightforward or convenient. As we know, FPL is a global game and, for example, if you wanted to monitor early team news for Gameweek 24 in parts of Southeast Asia, you’d need to wake yourself up at about 2:25am or, if you wanted to monitor early team news for Gameweek 25 in California, you’d have to wake up at 3:25am.
It’s hard to argue that this doesn’t offer an advantage to FPL managers in the UK or more GMT-adjacent time zones when it comes to viewing early team news. Thus, it follows, this phenomenon creates something of an unfair imbalance in favour of players in some locations over others.
Early team news is also something you use at your own risk with no guarantees that it will actually pay off. It has potential, however, to negate the skill element and some of the fun associated with FPL by reducing the need to monitor team and injury news and it may also create an uneven playing field between those managers who can easily access the news and those who can’t, particularly those in different time zones.
If I do have a biggest concern with early team news, it would centre on the fact that not everybody can access it with the same level of ease and the potential that this might have to affect the fairness and global appeal of FPL, something which, I’m sure most will agree, adds a lot to the game and to the FPL community.
Speaking as somebody who once woke themselves up at 3:20am because I was in Jakarta and I wanted to take advantage of a scheduling quirk that allowed us to see a pre-deadline Arsenal teamsheet and switch Santi Cazorla for Alexis Sanchez if the latter was passed fit (wasn’t worth it), I can say from personal experience that this is not something you’d want to do regularly.
Ultimately, it would be a shame for a global game like FPL if how well you can do becomes significantly influenced by where you live.
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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