The fantasy football phenomenon shows little sign of slowing down, with its popularity growing year-on-year.

Having first caught the imagination in the US during the 1960s, fantasy sports are now a global pastime, with several million aspiring managers regularly playing the Fantasy Premier League game alone.

This vast number of wannabe Pep Guardiolas begin each new season optimistic that their carefully selected squad can accrue enough points on a weekly basis to top their mini-league and ultimately ensure bragging rights over friends and work colleagues.

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Sadly however, half of these players drop out along the way, either due to losing interest or becoming frustrated at not fully understanding the game rules.

Which is where this comprehensive but easy-to-follow guide comes in; an invaluable resource to help you sign up and successfully navigate a testing season, all while gaining an edge over your fellow competitors.

Because if Premier League fantasy football is a whole lot of fun, it is twice as enjoyable when you win.

Whether you are a complete novice or a player who has grown disheartened at seeing your meticulously compiled group of 15 real-life players fall short, the following cheat-sheet breaks down every aspect of EPL Fantasy Football, from making your initial picks to capitalizing on Double Gameweeks.

Armed with such tips and knowledge, virtual silverware awaits. Always fancied yourself as a budding Jurgen Klopp? Then don your club tracksuit and step this way.

What Is Fantasy Football?

Fantasy football allows you to fulfil a lifelong ambition of managing a Premier League side by assembling an imaginary squad made up of 15 real-life footballers who gain – or lose – you points based on their performances for their respective teams across each gameweek.

These points are tallied against friends you are competing against in a mini-league or a larger public league that contains the wider fantasy football community.

Your adventure begins by selecting players from a set budget of £100m, compiling a squad consisting of two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfielders and three attackers.

Fantasy Premier League points are given for such actions as goals scored, assists created or clean sheets.

Points are deducted for conceding goals, yellow cards and other infractions. Factoring in injuries and form, each new gameweek affords you the opportunity to transfer a player.

The benefits to playing EPL fantasy football are numerous starting with the obvious attraction of the competitive element.

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It is immensely satisfying to beat your friends thus proving beyond doubt what you have always suspected: that you possess a superior understanding of the beautiful game than they do.

Bantering them on Whatsapp about their failing team never fails to amuse.

Moreover, fantasy football makes watching the Premier League a greater immersive experience, having you invested in fixtures that you ordinarily would not have much affiliation with.

Let’s say you are a Manchester United supporter and Brighton are playing Aston Villa on the TV. Now you are rooting for the away side because their right-back is your appointed captain who can obtain you double points.

If one-upmanship and the personal challenge of maintaining a winning team is not incentive enough there are also prizes on offer for the most successful players. Best of all, the official Premier League Fantasy Football game is free to play.

Fantasy Football Game

The Premier League fantasy football start date for 2021/22 is August 13th, or at least that is when the game officially begins in earnest as a new season gets underway.

Before then however there is a squad to put together and that can only be done once you have registered via the Premier League website. Why not do so today?

To do this is refreshingly easy. Simply type in your basic details and once your account is created the site will automatically take you to the relevant homepage.

There, at the top of the screen are the two most important sections for you at this initial stage: ‘pick your squad’ and ‘create and join leagues’.

Take your time selecting your personalized FA Premier fantasy football team and remember nothing is set in stone until you press ‘submit’.

There are helpful tips regarding team selection and how to maximize your budget further into this guide but as a rule of thumb £10m should be allocated to goalkeepers, £25m for defenders, £35m for midfielders and £30m for strikers.

A maximum of three players are allowed from a single Premier League side. As regards to formation, a 3-4-3 is generally recommended but really you can choose any variation you like.

Take your time too over choosing a team name. The wittier the better.

As for how to start a fantasy football league your options are varied and ultimately comes down to personal preference.

The game can be played solo, in a public league of 20 randomly assigned teams, but if you get friends and colleagues involved then a private mini-league offers a more shared experience.

How Does Fantasy Football Work?

You have signed up – free of charge – and selected your squad based on criteria we will cover in the next section. Now what?

Now, you join your leagues. Note the plural use here because you can join up to 20 different private leagues should you wish, either creating one yourself – whereupon you will become the administrator for that league - or joining an existing league set up by a friend simply by using a unique code.

You will also automatically be included in the overall fantasy football league that contains every player participating around the globe.

Additionally, you have the option of trying out the Premier League draft, a game that runs separate to the main event. Here there is no budget to adhere to and each manager takes a turn selecting a player over 15 rounds of picks.

Inspired by the NFL draft system, managers cannot share a Premier League player meaning the race is on to snag Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah. Private draft leagues have a maximum of 16 managers. Public leagues are smaller, between four, six or eight.

With the fundamentals in place, now is the time to gain a good understanding of the fantasy Premier League rules. Don’t worry. They’re all pretty straightforward.

Ahead of every gameweek it is necessary for you to select your strongest team of 11 and it is these players who will win – or lose – you points.

If one or more of these players do not feature they may be automatically replaced by the substitutes you have prioritized beforehand over their fellow bench-warmers.

It also falls on you at this stage to select a team captain and vice-captain, though this can be changed on a weekly basis. A captain’s score is doubled offering up some extra valuable points.

Your fantasy Premier League team selection must be submitted ahead of each gameweek deadline that is typically a few hours before that weekend’s fixtures get underway.

FPL Mason Mount
Photo credit: Richard Heathcote / Pool via AP

The allocation of points is based on how these players individually perform in the Premier League during each gameweek and below are some examples of how the scoring system works.

A single point is given for each player who plays up to sixty minutes. This is doubled for every player still involved in their matches beyond the hour-mark.

Four points is gained from forwards who score a goal and the same amount is earned by goalkeepers and defenders who oversee clean sheets.

The three best-performing players in each match are granted bonus points and then of course there are assists, penalties saved by keepers, and so on.

A defender who keeps a clean sheer, puts in a Man of the Match display, and pops up with a goal can launch your points total that week into the stratosphere.

Naturally, for any competitive enterprise, there are inevitably also downsides.  The game doesn’t only give, but takes away.

A yellow card therefore sees a player deducted a point. A sending off ramps that up to three costly minus points. Every two goals conceded by a team sees all defenders punished, with the poor keeper similarly deducted points even if they are blameless.

A key aim is to anticipate which players might accrue bonus points for putting in stand-out performances. The BPS (Bonus Points System) is generous and can significantly amplify your week’s fantasy football points total.

At the conclusion of each gameweek your tally is automatically compiled for you with league positions adjusted accordingly.

How To Play Fantasy Football

Now that you know how to play fantasy Premier League the natural next step is to learn how to do well in fantasy football and gain the grudging respect of your friends into the bargain.

Because, as stated earlier, this thoroughly enjoyable and engaging pursuit is twice as much fun when you win.

To increase your chances of success we must first go back to the start, to the compiling of your squad. After all, these are the players on which your entire fortunes will rest, initially at least.

Here at 888sport, for this season and beyond, we aim to offer the very best fantasy football team tips, insight and coverage, all designed to help you get the most out of your 2021/22 campaign.

But with this being a beginner’s guide, let’s for now put forward some basic dos and don’ts when it comes to making your crucial opening picks.

Don’t be reluctant to select players from teams who are direct rivals to your beloved club in real life. Why limit your options? Why cut off your nose to spite your face?

Do be prepared to put in some research, digging out the most relevant data on players to better assist you in accruing points.

Remember that the best fantasy football players are not necessarily household names but instead may be unsung full-backs who regularly bomb forward and create chances, or cheap defenders who play for teams that are typically difficult to break down.

Do however leave a good chunk of your budget over to a big-name guaranteed goal-scorer. These rare gems are priceless.

Elsewhere, does a forward often stray off-side or need numerous gilt-edged chances before converting? Is a player prone to picking up avoidable bookings? Such failings can have a negative impact on their BPS points.

Is a midfielder shot-shy or conversely is he classed as a midfielder in the game but is typically deployed by his real-life manager further forward?

All these considerations and more should be factored in but don’t fret too much if you later discover that a Norwich City playmaker is topping all the stats charts while your expensive Liverpool number 10 is proving to be a dud, because that’s precisely what the transfer option is for.

After each gameweek you are permitted to make one free transfer and this rolls over onto the next week if not used.

Any further fantasy football transfers over and above this limit will cost you four points and is really not recommended unless changes are absolutely essential.

Especially as you have chips at your disposal, a series of ‘cheats’ that can be used only once apiece across a season so please use them wisely.

The exception to this is the fantasy football wildcard chip that twice allows a participant to overhaul their team without forfeit.

This is a powerful luxury indeed and should ideally be saved for a double gameweek to get maximum affect. Double gameweeks tends to occur later in the season as the fixture list condenses.

For the others, timing is also everything. A Free Hit chip is an opportunity to loan in as many players as you wish for a period of seven days before reverting to your usual line-up.

Keep this back for a weekend that has only a couple of games scheduled, where many or all of your regular players are not involved.

The Triple Captain chip meanwhile trebles the score of your chosen skipper. FPL Captain picks are always an important consideration. Here it demands extra due thought.

Wildcards and bonus points can feel a touch overwhelming to begin with but do not panic. There is no rush to use the former while regarding BPS, trial and error is your friend.

How To Change A Fantasy Football Team Name

The information you wish to alter can be found on the ‘team details’ page on the site.

Delete your existing name and type in your revised choice then scroll to the bottom and click on ‘update details’.

You are not limited to a specific number of times you may do this.

How To Create A Fantasy Football League

Once you are registered you will automatically be included in a range of public leagues, the main one of which is the overall Premier League fantasy league that contains every participant across the globe.

There is also a fantasy Premier League table designated for each fan-base of top-flight clubs.

The real excitement however lies in private leagues that sees friends, colleagues and relative all competing for bragging rights.

It is not complicated to create a fantasy football league, with unique codes used so that other players can join via a link. On the site click through ‘Leagues >Create and Join New Leagues >Create a League’.

Type in a name to complete the process and hey presto, you are now the league’s administrator, furnished with a unique code to pass on to whoever you wish.

It is doubtful you will encounter any problems but if you do, the ‘help’ section on site is an invaluable tool.

How To Join A Fantasy Football League

If creating a league is easy, joining one set up by a friend couldn’t be simpler.

Having been sent a code by the league’s creator use this in the relevant section of the website and you will be automatically added.

Fantasy Premier League FAQS

Can you change your fantasy football team name?

Yes, and thank goodness because it is human nature to think of a perfect punned handle after the event.

To change your team-name, click on ‘my team’ and amend your choice. You are allowed a name with a maximum character length of 15.

When does fantasy Premier League start?

The game itself begins anew each year to coincide with the latest Premier League season but prior to that it is necessary to compile your squad and either join an existing league or create your own.

You can join in with the fun any time after the opening weekend but of course you will have some points to catch up on.

FPL 2021/22 officially launched on June 22nd and is now open for sign-ups. So when can you make your fantasy football team? There really is no time like the present.

How does fantasy Premier League work?

In summary, points are accumulated across a season via the performances and achievements of real-life players you have selected in your fantasy side.

Fantasy Premier League transfers can be regularly made to freshen up your squad while a handful of ‘chips’ can be used to boost your score.

Does fantasy football cost money?

There are numerous fantasy football leagues out there but the official Premier League version in not only the biggest and best but also free to play.

Better yet, there are weekly, monthly and overall fantasy football prizes to be won, from games consoles to VIP hospitality at a match of your choice.

So, what are you waiting for? That title-winning team won’t manage itself and your virtual dug-out beckons.

*Credit for the main photo belongs to Laurence Griffiths / Pool via AP*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 4th July 2021

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and fantasy football enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.