The history of fantasy sports is an interesting one and one that will include many variations depending on who you ask. If you ask a baseball fantasy sports fan you will be told a different history of fantasy sports to that of the history recounted by a football fantasy sports fan. In actual fact both the stories recounted by these two sets of sports fans respectively are true.
Both sides of the story omit certain facts that don’t pertain to their given sport, which is understandable, of course. Here I will go through a chronological rundown of the history of fantasy sports including major junctions that allowed the game to grow to the heights it has reached today.
This is the first signs of any sort of fantasy sports game ever. Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach and a few others from the Oakland Raiders Organisation draw out the basic rules for what has now developed into fantasy football. This all happened in the Milford Plaza Hotel in New York City in March of 1962.
The first ever draft for a fantasy football league was made. The league was known as the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League or the GOPPPL. Oakland Raiders quarter back and hall of famer George Blanda was the first ever fantasy football selection.
At this point in time fantasy sports now exist very loosely comparable to what we know to be fantasy sports today. Having said this though there is still a long way to go as there is still no fantasy sports for many other sports and no league is open to the public yet.
One of the biggest steps forward in the world of fantasy sports is taken as the first public fantasy league is brought into existence by the original founder of the GOPPPL, Andy Mousalimas. This fantasy football league was open to the patrons of the Kings X Sports Bar in Oakland.
Enter the point where most baseball fans will tell you that fantasy sports started. The Rotisserie scoring system for fantasy baseball was developed by some Journalists. The system was names after the restaurant in which the journalists would meet and where they first played the game – La Rotisserie Française. Daniel Okrent is credited with the coming up with the idea.
In the Rotisserie system the players of the game – known as owners – would pick a team from a list of all active Major League baseball players and would follow their statistics throughout a currently ongoing season and compile their teams scores based on their player’s performances. This provided a more realistic game as the players would have to make some similar decisions to that of real baseball team managers.
As the Rotisserie system was devised by Journalists many sports journalists knew about the game and participated in it. This was a crucial fact in the growth of the game of fantasy sports. This is because in 1981 the Major League Baseball had a strike, which meant that now, many sports journalists had very little to write about. So what did they decide to write about? You guessed it – the game they had come to love and play amongst their journalist friends – Fantasy Baseball!
Of course, this spread the word of this new game and many baseball lovers started to play the game and compete against their friends. This was all happening despite the fact the statistics and accurate news about baseball was often hard to come by during this time. This all changes with the advent of the internet and more sophisticated computers.
Now over 1 million people are playing fantasy football alone!
The schedule of the National Football league is changed to include bye weeks. The strategies used for team selection in Fantasy Football is now different as players had to know take into consideration the weeks that their players would not be playing.
The internet boom was all around and affecting nearly every industry in some way or another. Fantasy sports was no exception and the popularity of the game sky rocketed when the accessibility of information became easier with the addition of the internet.
Although strictly not information about Fantasy sports the court case between the National Basketball Association and Motorola Inc. did bring about huge precedent that would forever change the world of Fantasy sports.
The case was brought about when the NBA where trying to stop Motorola sending their users pager updates of NBA scores and statistics. Motorola got all of their information without the consent of the NBA and Motorola funded it all themselves. The NBA claimed that scores and statistics of NBA games were covered by copyright.
The court ruled that because the scores and stats that Motorola was sending their users were entirely factual, they could not be covered by copyright law. Motorola won the case and was allowed to continue sending scores and updates. This meant that in later years when fantasy sports players were able to get real- time updates on games there was a precedent that suggested that the vendors of this information was not breaking any law and thus fantasy sports could continue to grow.
FSTAlogoIn July of 1999 Yahoo! Inc. decide to set up a Fantasy sports system that was free to use. This was unusual as every other fantasy sports league in existence had a cost associated with playing. Even up to the present day Yahoo! Inc. still have the industry leading free Fantasy Sports game.
The FSTA was founded!
Now over 12 million people are playing fantasy football.
Also in 2006 there was a huge federal legislative change that could have caused fantasy sports to become and illegal activity in the US. The bill that was passed was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The UIGEA is the bill that meant online gambling such as poker within the US is now illegal.
Fantasy sports had to be reviewed under this bill as it was not clear if it fell into the scope of the bill. The government made a specific exception to online Fantasy sports because they deemed that it was a game of skill and not a game of chance. This distinction and the exception added to the UIGEA federally legalized online Fantasy sports.
This was a huge victory for the world of fantasy sports as if the game had not been given an exception in the UIGEA then fantasy sports becomes illegal in the US and the growth of the game does not continue to accelerate at the rate it has been in recent years.
Today’s marketleader Fanduel was founded.
Today’s second largest Fantasy Sports Site Draftkings was founded.
21 million people play fantasy sports, showing incredible growth on 6 years previous.
DirecTV announce a new addition to the NFL Sunday Ticket package called “Fantasy Zone”. This addition will show how all the current live action is affecting the fantasy stats for the day. Game to game analysis and an on screen ticker offering key player updates. This is a huge addition that will boost the overall popularity and reach of the game due to it becoming more mainstream and accessible to everyone.
Over 41,5 Million US & Canadian Citizens play fantasy sports today!
So there you have it, a rundown of the history of fantasy sports. What does the future hold for fantasy sports? No one knows. But what we can expect is continuing rapid growth and expansion as more and more people discover the enjoyment, accessibility and potential rewards found by playing fantasy sports.
StarsDraft-Logo-LAmaya / Pokerstars acquire Victiv and rebrand it to StarsDraft.com. Yahoo starts its own Daily Fantasy Sports site for real money. StarsDraft closes in all but 4 states a few months later.
FanDuel and DraftKings are both valued of more than $1B each!