AFL gambles with fantasy football future

The AFL has listened to gamblers but continues to ignore fantasy coaches who had their teams ruined.

There is no mention of fantasy football in this story about a mooted change from 45 to 90 minutes before each game as the time when final team sheets are handed to the AFL – and then immediately publicised, on FanFooty among other places – with the focus instead being on gambling clients. Sure, there’s more money in gambling, and high-rolling bettors would be the source of the law suits that would be the real reason behind this change if it was to come to pass. Nevertheless, fantasy coaches deserve some consideration too.

For those who haven’t followed this story from the original 70 minutes of madness through to this year’s scheduled 160 minutes of maelstrom, the problem comes because the AFL has decided to kick off its season on a Thursday and keep playing round 1 games all the way through to the Monday. According to standing AFL procedure, this means that teams for Saturday, Sunday and Monday games are first named on the Thursday at 5pm, with the Sunday and Monday teams being squads of 25 with extended benches. This year, with kickoff of the Carlton vs Richmond game at 7:40pm, leaves only 160 minutes between naming of 12 of the 16 teams and the first fantasy lockout of the year.

Last year this period lasted only 70 minutes, and the VirtualSports servers were swamped with traffic for the AFL Dream Team, Super Coach and Yahoo competitions, among others. Some coaches lost their entire teams due to glitches in the system caused by server overload. Most coaches were unable to make crucial late changes that would have saved their sides from copping zero after zero later in the year. It was a frustration that turned some off the game completely, and annoyed countless others who didn’t get the team they wanted.

VirtualSports have worked hard on improving their servers to handle the load this year, and have worked on streamlining their code to take the stress off with AJAX team updating, but the problem still lies with the AFL and its refusal to throw fantasy coaches a bone. The obvious solution would be to introduce a special regulation just for round 1 to require the 12 clubs playing after Friday to submit extended squads on the Wednesday night or Thursday morning, so as to at least spread out the huge amount of traffic that flows to the VirtualSports servers on opening day.

The AFL knows that Dream Team is big business for them now. Before last year, when the DT competition was opened very late, growth in players had doubled for each year since 2004. Finding the time to treat fantasy sports with a modicum of seriousness during its deliberations as to how to accommodate gamblers shouldn’t pose too much of a mental obstacle to the league.

Thanks to Xztatik for the heads up on the Hun story.

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