Education

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The Industry of Fantasy Football

13 Jan, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
From Office Time Drain to Possible College Curriculum, Team Management Is Exploding in Revenues

The business of sports is conducted on all fronts. Even covertly, in businesses and offices across the U.S.

As the football season whittles down and fans’ allegiances change with team eliminations, fantasy football similarly is shifting. And if you believe the pundits, it’s at fault for some serious amounts of lost productivity at work.

Fantasy football, according to an article in Forbes Magazine, is responsible for costing employers $134 billion a season.

Fantasy football, of course, is the pastime that uses real statistics from actual NFL players to create a points system allowing friends to compete against each another as pretend general managers of a fantasy football team.

Forbes noted that the Chicago-based firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which helps with company restructuring, downsizing and executive departures, attempted to do the math on how much time it costs to draft a team and keep up with individual stats:

According to the study by Challenger, an estimated 18.3 million employees played fantasy football on the job for two hours each week. The firm then multiplied that by the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s $24.45 hourly wage average. The result: $895 million lost each week.

Even hypothetically: Yikes.

In addition, noted USA TODAY Sports, fantasy football has followed in the steps of fantasy baseball by going mobile with designated fantasy sports apps that allow people to change their lineups anytime during the day.

And you thought Facebook was a time-sucker.

Of course, not everyone is concerned, continued the USA TODAY article. Brad Plumer, senior editor of Vox, wrote in the Washington Post that we ought to not take lost productivity statistics too seriously. Alcohol consumption costs the U.S. economy $220 billion, parents stressed out about child cares costs $300 billion, changing computer passwords costs about $16 billion, and the NCAA Tournament costs $134 million. Adding up over 14 of these variables, Plumer found that $1.8 trillion per year is lost to America’s “vices, distractions and health problems.” Jack Shafer, Slate’s editor at large, believes that these figures are all “bogus” because people would be slacking off anyway — instead of spending time taking an extended coffee run to Starbucks, people are reading USA TODAY for fantasy facts. Also, John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, said that banning fantasy sports causes a decreases in moral, productivity and employee retention.

USA TODAY also noted that while managers and companies may be concerned about real or perceived lost productivity, there is a very real concern: fantasy football’s effect on the NFL. Congress has decided fantasy football is not gambling because: “It has an outcome that reflects the relative knowledge of the participants, or their skill at physical reaction or physical manipulation (but not chance), and, in the case of a fantasy or simulation sports game, has an outcome that is determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of sporting events.”

Setting aside the as yet unproven possibility of influencing the actual game, the industry of fantasy sports is alive and well. Even if no real betting takes place, there’s still money changing hands, says an article in The Daily Beast. Entry fees are charged for many leagues, and the companies that provide many of the online fantasy forums charge for the use of their platforms and make a sizable income off of advertising, phone apps and insider fantasy football guides. The Beast article noted that research provided by Ipsos found that Americans spend an estimated $800 million annually on all fantasy sports media products.

But maybe it’s not all bad. A paper, Turn Fantasy into Reality: Using Fantasy Football in an Economics of Sports Course, by Karl W. Einolf of Mount Saint Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, proposed using the fantasy football concept to allow students in sports business management courses to learn the ins and outs of the industry:

“Students in an economic of sports class create their own football league by determining franchise locations, negotiating television broadcast rights, and developing revenue sharing arrangements,” Einoff stated. “The students become franchise owners as they participate in a free agent auction to hire players from existing National Football League rosters. During the season, these teams “compete” using actual statistics from real NFL games. Teaching the economic implications of revenue sharing, salary caps, free agency, ticket pricing, labor disputes, and competitive balance comes alive as students become financially responsible for their own fantasy football teams.”

Whether fantasy football is actually a useful learning tool for sports management, or whether it is merely a proposition to justify students’ involvement in a recreational pursuit – well, the jury is still out.  But the industry itself continues to grow. According to research from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 33 million Americans participate in fantasy football and the industry adds about 2 million new players every year. In fact, fantasy baseball is gearing up again.

And that adds up to a lot of computer time.

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