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Fantasy Soccer On the Rise? @TheDailyPayoff

Fantasy Soccer On the Rise?

While most European clubs are making their offseason friendly visits to far away ports of call in Asia and North America, MLS continues to play through the summer, heading to its all-star game in Colorado next week, where the league’s elite players will match up this year against Tottenham Hotspur. Regardless of where soccer is being played this week, it looks like the fantasy aspect of “The Beautiful Game” is suddenly rising quickly.

This past week Univision Deportes entered the fantasy soccer business, with a game based on Mexico’s Liga MX, which kicks off its season Friday and is the most-watched league in the U.S according to Univision numbers. The program will offer prizes including personalized soccer scarves and weekly cash payouts of $100. A grand prize at the end of the season includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the network’s sports-awards show Premios Deportes and a spot in the 2016 fantasy talent league.

Whether the followers of Liga MX will take to fantasy soccer is up for debate. Soccer in North America and its fantasy offerings have been slow to take hold in comparison to baseball, football and basketball, and the majority of the success in fantasy soccer has come from one company, Boston and UK based Mondogoal, which has taken the route of partnering with many of the elite clubs in Europe to build pay fantasy offerings, creating a game for global fans, many of whom can already bet legally and understand the gaming/gambling process, as well as to the growing number of American fans who are interested in pay fantasy and can now connect even closer to their favorite clubs like AS Roma, Chelsea and Liverpool among others. Mondogoal also had a very successful launch with pay fantasy games for both Women’s World Cup as well, further strengthening their soccer-specific offerings for a worldwide audience. Their stance on applying the American pay fantasy model to the massive club followings appeared to be, and still appears to be unique and well thought out in the space, with more deals expected in the coming months.

However as the week came to a close Friday, yet more fantasy soccer business news arose, as Major League Soccer announced a partnership with DraftKings in both the United States and Canada. While neither unique nor exclusive, the partnership will give DraftKings yet more marketing coverage on the continent, again with the hope that a wide blanket will create an affinity with more casual players new to the fantasy marketplace.

Whether fantasy soccer can reap an ROI in North America for DraftKings or even Univision remains to be seen. The sport does not have the deep analytics that other team sports has, and the audience in the U.S., although growing, is still behind the other four professional sports in terms of media interest and fan engagement. Still the risk for both companies is relatively low, and if the market comes and fantasy soccer in the States takes off, they have the model to reap the benefits. If not, it is a small venture with little lost.

“The increasingly popular daily fantasy sports space is a proven fan development tool that we’re excited about,” said Gary Stevenson, President and Managing Director of MLS Business Ventures in a statement. “You’ll see deep integration within our many digital platforms and you’ll see a number of club deals. We are delighted to partner with DraftKings to give our passionate fans another innovative way to experience the sport that they love.”

The move for DK is consistent with their philosophy of trying to be everywhere in every sport to lure casual fantasy players to a pay model. While Fan Duel CEO Nigel Eccles has been steadfast in his insistence that his company, with the largest number of daily players, will stick to refining its model for the NBA and the NFL, Jason Rollins has led Draft Kings to deals ranging from the UFC to now MLS, as well as fantasy golf and their ever-growing investment in MLB pay fantasy as well as massive marketing spends around events like the Belmont Stakes. The company has also applied for a license to run a business in the United Kingdom, which could also signal an interest in growing its soccer offerings outside of North America for the first time. Right now, it is believed that Mondogoal is the only company licensed both in the U.S. and the UK, but the model appears to be changing for other players willing to get their kicks in the marketplace.

Does the sudden flurry of activity mean fantasy soccer is now a comer for business? Not yet, but it will be intriguing to see if media or large players in the space invest more in soccer as the fall comes and global interest turns closer to the world’s elite clubs. If that niche can continue to be exploited then maybe, just maybe, fantasy soccer will become a more lucrative bet. For now, at least for North American soccer, it is all a hedge.

Pacquiao Injury Fallout Growing


The fallout is growing across the globe from the recent disclosure that Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao was injured going into the ” Fight of the Century” against Floyd Mayweather.

The prime minister of Cambodia is refusing to pay up on a $5,000 bet he made on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight because of he says the fight was not judged fairly, according to a report by CNBC.com.

Last Saturday, millions placed their bets – and lost – on the “Fight of the Century” when Floyd Mayweather Jr. beat Manny Pacquiao, including, Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia.

Pacquiao allegedly failed to disclose shoulder injury prior to the fight is causing reverberations throughout the boxing and betting worlds.

Pacquioa’s promotor , Rob Arum, revealed right after the fight that the boxer had a torn rotator cuff sustained during training about a month prior to the fight, according to various reports, including Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/pacquiao-faces-sanctions-shoulder-injury-150505081507006.html

Apparently, his camp failed to notify the Nevada Athletic Commission until before the fight when Pacquiao requested an anti-inflammatory shot.

The Telegraph is also reporting that Pacquioa could be prosecuted for the infraction, citing the New York Daily News as saying the Nevada Athletic Commission is investigating. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/pacquiao-failure-disclose-injury-perjury-article-1.2210373

When Fantasy Became An Obsession

By TERRY LYONS @terrylyons Contributing Columnist for @TheDailyPayoff

It started with the very best of intentions.
But as with so many major (or minor) vices in life, it quickly grew into an obsession. The weekly NFL Fantasy League, a competition involving a bunch of writers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a few PR gurus in Dallas, LA and New York, morphed into a full-blown NBA Fantasy Sports League.

The year was 1983 and in a Boston Globe column, Celtics forward Larry Bird casually described the way he determined how impactful every player’s statistics were on a nightly basis as he tried to figure out a way to compete against his nemesis Earvin “Magic” Johnson despite the fact they only saw each other twice a season. Bird added the “positive” stats – points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and steals then subtracted the “negative” stats – missed field goals and free throws, turnovers and personal fouls.

Little did he know at the time, but Bird had created the best possible formula for an NBA fantasy sports game. At a later date, it was determined that some personal fouls might actually be a “positive” occurrence, so that stat was banished from the equation and “The Larry Bird League” was officially created.

To protect his innocence, I will leave-out the name of the commissioner and mastermind of the Larry Bird League, but suffice to say, he was (and still is) one of the best writer-reporters the NBA beat has ever seen. He went to the lengths of actually having Larry Bird draw the order of the league draft nearly every year, usually at an NBA preseason tilt in Hartford, CT or Springfield, MA. In one instance, maybe in 1986 or ’87, while the Larry Bird League commissioner was busy conducting the annual draft while covering games on the east coast, one of the Bird League franchise owners was at The Fabulous Forum in LA, covering Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers.

That rival Bird League team owner met-up with the one and only Magic Johnson for a pregame interview, some 12-24 hours after that year’s fantasy draft had been conducted, and he explained the situation to the Magic Man.

“I got you with the fifth overall pick,” he told Johnson.

“Fifth?” Magic questioned, his competitive instincts surfacing.

The writer had to explain that in the Bird League you had to fill out a line-up based by position, and the top centers were a hot commodity and were often first-round picks. centers like Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing were always gobbled-up early.

“Oh, okay,” said Magic, still not quite understanding the concept of fantasy sports.

Then, as only Magic Johnson could put it, complete with that friendly smile, “So? Who we got?”

That was the end of innocence in our world of fantasy sports.

Fast-forward to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, the year the one and only USA Basketball Dream Team was to prove they were the best team ever assembled in any sport. Ever.

One or two nights before the opening ceremonies were to take place, the esteemed commissioner of the Larry Bird League, on assignment to cover the Olympic Games, had managed a feat almost as difficult to obtain as a gold medal in the Decathlon. The commish obtained admission into one of the most secure locales on the planet, outside of the Situation Room in The White House. He was in the lobby of the Hotel Ambassador, just a few steps off the Ramblas in Barcelona. It was the hotel headquarters for the Dream Team.

It was early in the evening and the order of the draft needed to be determined because the actual draft would be taking place only hours later at 7 Portes seafood restaurant in Barcelona. Not all the regulars of the usual NBA Bird League were on hand, but a few others eagerly snapped up the expansion franchises, because we needed all fantasy team owners to be on hand for a live draft to be conducted over dinner, on – probably – the last night of the Olympics we’d actually have a decent dinner, aside from fast food gorging or a press room “Jamon and cheese.”

The lobby of the Dream Team hotel in Barcelona was pretty small, as the Hotel Ambassador was designed to be a small, commuter hotel, not much different than a Marriott Courtyard or Holiday Inn Express. The rooms were rather small and the lobby bar had only six or eight chairs. On the night of our draft, Bird sat at one of them, on the far right side, chatting with a few of his buddies who accompanied him on the trip. They were going to take in an Olympic baseball game and bird had a USA Basketball hat on, as he always did.

I had my back to Bird and we were excitedly planning for the upcoming draft, gathering all team rosters and making sets so each franchise owner would be able to draft later that night. Of course, we were also strategizing a bit, noting that the USA players, many who would only play 15-20 minutes per night, might go in the second or third round.

Suffice to say we were totally ignoring Bird and his small entourage and we thought he was ignoring us.

The commissioner of our league had scribbled out the numbers – 1-through-8 – on little pieces of paper and he crumpled them up into tiny pieces.

Now, the important part!

Not a single word was said.

I turned around, pivoting, so-to-say, on the great Larry Bird, who proceeded to remove his cap and hold it out as he rolled his eyes and shook his head just slightly.

The Bird Commissioner reached over, past me, and tossed the tiny papers into the baseball hat. Bird handed me the cap and I raised it as high as I could so Larry had to reach up to pick the papers – one at a time – out of the cap, thus determining the order of our draft.

Upon Bird selecting the seventh team, I brought the cap down to eye level and we all observed the one piece of paper left in the cap.

I grabbed the paper, unfurling it as I did, and Bird promptly placed the cap back where it belonged – on his scruffy, blond locks.

We went back to our business and Larry returned to his cold cervaza San Miguel on the bar and continued his conversation with his two friends.

Bird knew the routine.

Now, the reason for that interesting intro is simple. Our basic fantasy NFL league had become the prototype for an NBA fantasy sports game and that morphed into the Olympic Games basketball version where Puerto Rico’s leading scorer Jose Ortiz or Australia’s Andrew Gaze were pure gold, in fantasy terms. Brazil’s Oscar Schmidt, now a Hall of Famer, was another fantasy juggernaut and so was the late Drazen Petrovic or his Croatian teammate Tony Kukoc, although Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen shut Kukoc down mightily in the two games against the USA. Charles Barkley of the USA was the most valuable American player, as he led the team in scoring and I remember being happy with “a couple top Argentines” drafted in the middle rounds.

Fast-forward two years to the 1994 World Championship of Basketball, held in Toronto, and one of our colleagues, who had attended the 1990 World Championship and ’92 Olympics and had a keen fantasy mind, drafted Richard Matienzo, the top Cuban player in our “WCOB” Bird League. Matienzo was Cuba’s leading scorer and rebounder, but he failed to show up to the team’s August 11, 1994, game against Germany. He had defected.

“He left the hotel Wednesday night with his friends but he hasn’t come back,” said Cuba’s head coach Miguel Calderon Gomez to The New York Times, refusing to speculate as to the whereabouts of his player.

In the cold, cruel world of fantasy, where the previously productive player would now be getting giant goose-eggs on a nightly basis, we applied the “Doug Moe Rule,” which quite simply was “Tough Shit.”

With the foundation laid solidly, our group expanded our fantasy borders to all types of competition. If it worked for the NFL, the NBA and the Olympics, it surely worked for NBA Summer League, correct?

Yes, some of the writers actually held a Midwest Rookie Revue Bird League one summer. And, that was not the most far-fetch fantasy league we conducted. There were impromptu leagues for ice hockey at the Nagano Olympics, there were team-based games for World Cup soccer, there were single night fantasy games for the annual NBA All-Star Game and The Finals. There were great Ryder Cup golf leagues, MLB All-Star leagues and Kentucky Derby Fantasy leagues. You name it, we did it.

The most ridiculous?

One winter night while attending a women’s corporate basketball game in Manhattan where some of the NBA Entertainment staffers were competing, and two of the longtime members of the Larry Bird League were in attendance, so we quickly scratched out the roster numbers of the players on the two teams.

Let’s just say, I remember I won because I had attended a few games before the Rec league game that night, scouting the players, of course. So, I can now confess, and thank star NBAE power forward-center Kathleen Reidy who always put up a double-double.