The Premiership is missing a trick by not having a fantasy league, says reader Ben Armstrong

Rugby Rant: Premiership fantasy game missing

PREMIERSHIP RUGBY has plenty of opportunities to grow the game. Although, they may be found wanting in this critical department. Let’s focus on the website. When I compare it with the Premier League’s website, I immediately notice a key ingredient is missing. Why isn’t there an official rugby fantasy league comparable to the likes of Fantasy Premier League (FPL) in football?

Premiership Rugby is missing an opportunity. An official fantasy league adds another dimension to the fans’ experience. Even the most diehard fans will be thinking more about rugby during the week than they previously were. A fantasy league can attract new fans. For instance, I was roped into playing FPL this year by a friend. I went from ‘not really being into football’ to ‘being a football fan’ in seven weeks, beating all my friends at fantasy.

Rugby viewing figures would also increase as managers of the fantasy league will start to watch more matches to make informed decisions regarding their squad. Given there is no free-to-air TV coverage, this could be valuable.

A fantasy league gets the newspapers interested. Google ‘Who should I put in my fantasy football team?’. Loads of results come up with analysis. Although rugby will never be on football’s scale, a fantasy league would increase coverage.

Furthermore, there would be significant potential for advertising. FPL has more than 5m managers this season, making the Premier League website very attractive for advertisers. Partners of the top flight will be delighted by the added exposure provided by people logging on each week to select their teams.

The good news for Premiership Rugby is that they don’t have to work too hard to get the ball rolling. A fantasy game has been developed by a small website called The Rugby Magazine. Loosely based on FPL, it’s one of the most detailed fantasy games I’ve played and around 6,000 managers participated last season. With limited funding, the website has done well to keep the game free to play. Premiership Rugby could provide the serious funding required to advertise the game properly, with the fantasy league coming under its official banner.

The demand is there. The Six Nations run an incredibly successful fantasy game via their website. There is no reason why this can’t be replicated at club level. It’s now up to Premiership Rugby to collaborate with The Rugby Magazine to create what fans are crying out for. Given time, an official fantasy league could reach millions and pay everyone back in the process.

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