Price: £39, £34 or £27 per team depending on package selected.
Private Leagues: Yes
* The original Fantasy Football Game
* The most competitive and compelling Fantasy Football experience
* Multiple options for scoring rules
* Lots of web based tools to manage your league
* A huge variety of knock-out cups and competitions to keep the interest of all managers
* A vast array of customisable league rules and options
*Pro Game requires a committed set of Fantasy Managers to get the best experience
*It also requires a league Chairman
*The wealth of options and competitions can be daunting
The Fantasy Leagues Premiership Pro game is based around a ready-made, organised league of managers and uses an auction for squad selection, where players can only be bought and owned by a single Fantasy Manager. Here, managers buy a squad of 11-18 players in a live auction or using the excellent new online auction system. Once the auction process is over and the season is underway, managers can elect to play their chosen 11 in one of four formations. Game rules, governing factors such as the frequency of substitutions and transfers, are set up by the league chairman at the start of the season and a wealth of custom rules can be introduced.
Three packages are available at various price points. These Premium, Interactive and Standard packages influence what options you have to play with in your league including the type of auction you can run.
New for the 2008-09 system, this game now has a choice of scoring systems that can be set by the league organisers adopting the Premium package (£39). The basic scoring system is the same and the purest of all Fantasy Football games. Players earn 3 points for a goal and 2 for an assist. Goalkeepers and Defenders (split into full-backs and centre-backs) earn a point for appearing on the pitch for 45 minutes, 2 additional points are earned for a clean sheet (provided they play at least 75 minutes) and one point is lost for every goal conceded. It’s clean and simple and still the best in my opinion.
Other options include a system that includes penalty points for red and yellow cards and a third system that increases the points awarded for goals, assists etc for away matches. These allow league admins to add a further level of strategy as required.
The Premiership Pro game from the inventors of Fantasy Football, is the purest and most compelling version you can play. Although registration earns you a place in the Pro game rankings, this is very much a Private League game to be enjoyed with mates. You need to have a group of between 5 and 16 managers to form your league but if you can find that, and the pretty expensive registration fee, then you’re in for a treat. The games’ strength is its flexibility. When you launch your own league as the Chairman, you decide the budget, you auction players to decide player values, you decide on what formations are available, how often teams can be tweaked and changed. You can even add your own local rules to the equation, such as specifying a fixed squad rule that forces each manager to have a player for each position on the bench. The options and control you have over your league is just superb.
Crucially, as part of a Pro league, you’ll need to carry out a pre-season player auction to decide ownership of each player. If you’re able to get your managers together for a live “traditional” auction then do so. It’s always a great kick-off to the season that guarantees two things – a boisterous night out filled with banter amongst football fans and secondly, a mad scramble for Torres, Lampard and Ronaldo after which you’ll doubtless return home convinced you’ve the best team on paper, along with every other manager in your league.
If you can’t organise such a get together then the Fantasy League solve the problem with an excellent online auction tool – although it’s only open to those playing the Premium (£39 per team) or Interactive (£34 per team,) packages so consider the likelihood of getting together for a live auction when you decide on your package. The online auction offers all the flexibility with the rules for budget, formations, squad size and the number of players allowed from each club that are available in a traditional auction, but the actual bidding for players is automated over the net for a period decided by the league Chairman. Once the online auction begins, all managers make their secret bids for players, working to the agreed budget set by the chairman. Once the specified deadline is passed, all the bids are revealed, players are bought and the next phase of bidding begins. This process continues until each of the managers have completed their squads.
Once managers have bought their players the Pro league gets underway. Team lineups can then be changed in a number of ways, depending, again, on the rules selected by the Chairman.
With transfers a Chairman can choose to monitor and process each one, thus ensuring that managers do not pluck free agents from the pool on a daily basis. The Premium and Interactive packages also allow the Chairman to specify transfer windows at which time the Fantasy Leagues “Sealed Bids Engine” will come into operation, effectively this creates a number of mini-auction for players throughout the season. This engine allows managers to make a bid for a player which gets activated when a specified transfer window is reached. Once the window is opened, the bids are revealed and the transfers take place. An excellent feature of this is the ability for the Chairman to specify the rules that come into consideration should sealed bids be tied. A number of options are available here, including the option to award the player to the lowest team out of those tied for the player or the team who made the first bid. These allow the Chairman to offer some advantage to lower ranked teams in order to keep their interest.
There are yet more options with substitutions. In general, a manager can make unlimited substitutions up until match day, he can also tweak his team before each of Saturdays kick-offs and then again before the Sunday games. However the Chairman can once again, intervene here, setting a rule to force managers to select a lineup for the gameweek before the Saturday morning kick-off and therefore removing any advantage for the more hands-on managers who tweak their teams constantly over the weekend. Fantasy League’s new “Supersubs” is another option that can be chosen here. These allow the manager to effectively programme in substitutions for the fixtures ahead, days before the games take place. Again this allows managers to make the most of staggered games over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday so it’s up to the Chairman whether the supersubs option is available. However it’s another example of the multitude of tools and options that managers and chairmen have at their disposal.
In 2008-09 these options were expanded further to allow league chairmen with the Premium package, to set a different scoring system for their league. Chairman can now choose to included penalty points for red and yellow cards while a third system increases the number of points awarded for away games. It’s another level of strategy and choice although it must be said that by adopting one of the new scoring systems, the teams involved will not be eligible for entry in the extra European and National Cup competitions. Talking of which…
With your league established, managers compete with each other throughout the season. However, the Pro game also includes a string of additional competitions that come free for all registered teams in your league. This includes the FA Cup – with all players gaining points scored in real-life FA Cup matches. A Professional Cup – a knock-out tournament that takes place in the New Year where the teams in your league are paired with teams in leagues of similar size. Plus there’s also the option to create custom cup competitions for your leagues teams if, again, you selected the Premium or Interactive package. In addition there are manager of the month prizes, the option to form a second division and join the two leagues and European places up for grabs for European knock-out tournaments the following season. It’s a staggering amount of activity that ensures that all managers, even those floundering in the lower reaches of your league, are occupied throughout the season.
The options presented by the Pro game can be daunting to newcomers and does require a Chairman to set up the league and make decisions on the rules applied. This game is also by far the most expensive around. The Premium and Interactive packages are £42 and £32 per team respectively but, in my opinion, the options they offer make them a far better choice than the standard package for £26. This of course, demands that your Chairman finds a group of dedicated managers who are committed to a full Fantasy season. For that reason this game is better suited to those who have dabbled with free online games or perhaps even the Fantasy Leagues own Classic game type and are looking to step up a level of commitment.
The value for money and pleasure you get from the Premiership Pro game is very much decided by the group of managers you can get together. If you have a group with an equal level of commitment and interest, then you shouldn’t hesitate – you’ll get more than your money’s worth here. If, however, you have one or two managers that needed their arms twisting to take part, then it’s unlikely they’ll find the registration fee and you could be better off opting for Fantasy League’s Classic game or even one of the, lighter, free online games available.