Money & Business

The Association Helping to Drive Fantasy Football's Rise

By / Sep 16, 2013

With the NFL season underway, a parallel sport that doesn’t require any tackling, but does demand lots of stat crunching, is also in full swing. And yes, there’s an association for that.

Quick: Name an industry that brings in $1.2 billion in revenue each year, employs more than 4,000 people, and had a double-digit percentage of growth every year from 2007 to 2012, according to one research firm.

If your answer was fantasy football, well, you read the headline. But seriously, though, this other game taking place on Sundays in tandem with pro football is drawing some massive attention and buzz, and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association is working to stay on top of the industry’s rapid growth. More details below:

About the association: The FSTA, founded in 1999, sweeps a wide variety of sports under its banner, including baseball, basketball, and hockey. But football, which 83 percent of active players say they play, is by far the most popular. And the association has taken part in the field’s growth, with 120 companies counting themselves as members. “We serve the small, the large, the entrepreneurs, and the corporations as well as the visionaries, innovators, investors, advertisers, and sponsors that would like to network and learn more about the exciting fantasy sports industry,” the FSTA says on its website.

What’s driving the growth? Look no further than the internet, the smartphone, and the increased connectivity that comes with those devices. The Atlantic notes that the industry has largely grown with the rise of the corresponding technology. But the key thing may be the simple bonding that league play encourages. Occasionally, you’ll run across stories like the one about a group of Chicago-area high school classmates who have been playing fantasy football together for a quarter-century—keeping it going even as some have moved across the country. Though that’s longer than many, the association says that on average, those who play fantasy sports have been doing so for about nine and a half years. Some offices are even latching onto the trend, setting aside concerns about reduced productivity during football season.

Getting the league on board: One of the biggest problems the industry faced was a bit of an optics problem with the NFL, which did not officially sanction the game-within-a-game and had concerns about the buy-in nature of many fantasy leagues. But eventually, fantasy football grew too popular to ignore. “Not only did the NFL not cultivate this, they dismissed it for 10, 15, 20 years,” FSTA president Paul Charchian told NBC News. “Finally, in part because of the overwhelming amounts of revenue they were missing out on, the NFL embraced it and understood that it’s not gambling.” In 2000, the pro league allowed CBS Sports to run an official fantasy football product online, then eventually started running its own in 2007. The NFL’s full support came in handy in 2006, when the league helped lobby against including fantasy sports in a federal ban on online gambling, NBC News notes.

Are you in any fantasy football leagues? Tell us how you’re doing so far in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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