Insight - What fantasy football can teach money managers

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THE English football season ended Sunday, and for 9.2 million players of the Fantasy Premier League that means finding something else to mull over on a Saturday morning.

In the past few years, the fantasy version of the beautiful game has taken off. Each week, fantasy managers field a team of 11 players whose performances on the pitch convert to points in their game.

As in finance, these games are characterised by incomplete information: Players have to assess the probability of outcomes in the face of uncertainty. As a result, they can hone skills that are transferable into financial markets.A recent academic paper showed that hedge fund managers who do well in poker tournaments post significantly better fund performance.Unlike these other games, fantasy football takes place over a longer period of time – an entire season, from mid-August to late May.

As well as the initial selection and the weekly trade, they also need to decide when to play various “chips” that confer special powers – for example, a complete team overhaul. The “hot hand” in sports has been variously dismissed by academics as a fallacy, but the latest research gives it some credence.Some managers seek out value, picking players who look mispriced relative to their performance. Others adopt a “moneyball” approach, using quantitative tools to identify players whose underlying stats signal an impending upturn in performance.

Ten years ago, Fantasy Premier League was played by fewer than 2.8 million managers. Since then, participation has grown at a rate of 12.7% a year. This year, the Fantasy Premier League game was won by American Jamie Pigott, who achieved a higher points score than any winner in the past 20 years. I came a measly 39,319th.

 

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