After Aston Villa manager Dean Smith reportedly banned his players from taking part in Fantasy Premier League, we spoke to the FPL Podcast's James Richardson about how prevalent it is in the league.
Smith was left furious on Sunday when news of Jack Grealish's injury was leaked in advance of their defeat to Leicester City, despite his best efforts to keep it quiet.
And it's reported the source of the leak was inadvertent, with an eagle-eyed fantasy football insider spotting a number of Aston Villa staff members removing Grealish from their line-ups before Friday's deadline.
— FPL Insider (@insider_fpl) February 19, 2021
Smith has reportedly since banned his staff and players from having Fantasy Premier League teams. This evening, James Richardson of the official Fantasy Premier League podcast joined Joe and Dan on The Football Show to speak about the popularity of the FPL among players, estimating that more than half of Premier League players also take part in the fantasy version.
"My guess would be around half the Premier League play. We do a show every Thursday night called The FPL Show, with myself and Jules Breach, and in the course of that we always do a little interview segment with a player from a Premier League club, and sometimes they don't really understand what FPL is, but loads of times they're very switched on about what metrics they need to be picking players by, who they should be recommending. And they'll be talking about who is on top of their own team's mini-league.
"Patrick Bamford is another one; the guy will not go through a post match interview without mentioning what he's done with his team, whether he's dropped himself, or given himself the captain's armband which will give you double points.
"I would say at least 50 percent (of players play FPL). There are eight million people playing this game!" he added.
However, it's expected that this week's Jack Grealish incident will lead to further clubs stopping their players from taking part.
Richardson says the more likely event will be that players sign up incognito.
"Clearly there is a potential advantage for someone like Leicester in knowing a big player is out and preparing themselves for that, and managers never want leaks. We've seen that at Leeds in the past and that Derby business. I can see how clubs might start to take this seriously and might start to expect their players not to have fantasy teams. Whether that'll actually happen, they'll probably just do it under cover.
"There is an entire professional sub-class existing of FPL now, there are people who have quit their jobs who have become FPL scouts, who run FPL blogs, subscription services where they offer tips and metrics for people who want to get the slightest advantage in their mini-leagues.
"You can go very very deep on this! Most FPL podcasts (not ours I must stress) run to about one and a half hours because they have so much to tell you every week.
"Quite often if you just leave them there and stop interfering they'll do better than if you continue to meddle. I think it's a game that's very much accessible at whatever level you want to play it. If you want to get sophisticated there is so much raw data you can dive into," he added.