How fantasy football is revolutionising Man of the Match awards
The man of the match award has always been one of football’s most perplexing oddities.
Given out by an apparently random mixture of official football organisations, broadcasters, fan votes and sponsors, the selection of the recipient of the post-game champagne often gets posters on social media up in arms.
The sponsors man of the match prizes can be easily explained, as often the award simply goes to the player whom the sponsor on the day most wants to meet after the match is over.
But more official man of the match awards have often raised eyebrows too.
Breaking Luke Shaw’s leg = MOTM
Among the most bizarre man of the match awards in the last year was the one given to Hector Moreno after the PSV Eindhoven defender starred in a 2-1 Champions League victory against Manchester United in September.
Moreno had a good game on the night, but his performance was most memorable for a rash tackle on United’s left-back Luke Shaw that left the youngster with a broken leg.
There was no intent in Moreno’s challenge – ironically the Mexican had suffered a broken leg of his own in a game the year before – but it was a strange decision to give him the UEFA man of the match award prize given he had hospitalised a player during the game.
A United source was quoted by the Guardian as saying: “We find it strange and disappointing UEFA made him their man of the match after what happened to Luke.”
Steve Bruce picks substitute David Beckham
While not as controversial as Moreno’s award, plenty of column inches were generated back in 2009 when Steve Bruce, who was then manager of Sunderland, chose to give David Beckham the man of the match prize despite him coming off the bench in a 3-0 England win over Belarus.
Peter Crouch was overlooked by Bruce even though he hit a brace in the comfortable victory, with Beckham coming off the bench in the second half. Coincidentally, Bruce and Beckham had played together at Manchester United earlier in their careers.
England manager Fabio Capello even spoke out about Bruce’s bizarre decision, reportedly saying: “I just thought it was like [US president Barack] Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize after eight months as president. He gets the man of the match after 30 minutes here!”
But Bruce defended himself, insisting in quotes reported by the Sun that Beckham changed the game and deserved to be given the award.
“It’s incredible. I have never known such a carry-on,” Bruce said. “When I was in the stadium, he came on to the pitch and let’s be fair, for 50 minutes, it was dull, boring, uninteresting.
“That’s the way I looked at it. David Beckham comes on to the scene, the whole stadium in unison rises to him and I thought, ‘Blooming heck! Wow! Fantastic! Now Dave, what have you got?’. For me, he lit up Wembley.”
Perhaps we might not have to be reliant on the likes of Steve Bruce for man of the match awards for much longer, as big data is starting to have more of an influence across the world of sport.
With reputable news sources even using stats from the Football Manager database, it is only a matter of time until live statistics start to play a role in selecting man of the match prizewinners.
After all, daily fantasy football games already track the performance of footballers in real-time, awarding points for a huge array of events, both positive and negative, from completing passes to scoring goals, receiving yellow cards and conceding penalties.
It is not much of a stretch to suggest we could soon see fantasy football statistics or similar data used to select the outstanding player in a game.
Websites such as WhoScored could certainly be used to decide MOTMs, with their live statistics data already allowing football fans to keep up with all the important figures from the big match.
Fantasy football points – a fairer system?
One of the most innovative fantasy football games on the market right now is Bet4theBest, which offers double points for captains, as well as special MVP betting contests.
Users have to pick out the top-scoring fantasy player in their particular match, with top spot on the leaderboard and cash prizes going to the victor.
Describing itself as the “ultimate fantasy football betting site”, Bet4theBest also has game changing features such as no budget restriction, as well as one-on-one Challenge games.
So how do you select the MVP ?
The great thing about the Bet4theBest scoring system is that it rewards skill areas that can contribute to the outcome of a game. Of course, traditional fantasy football values like goals and assists will still matter but certain actions are rewarded or penalised that can differentiate a player from the pack in their MVP contests. Winning corners and free-kicks or getting shots on target can help to boost a player’s fantasy score while defenders are also rewarded when they catch opponents offside.
With 3 games scheduled for Day 4 of Euro 2016 the first place to start is with those goal projections – Spain have the highest expectancy of the 6 teams taking part but with no standout contender we’re happy to look elsewhere. All the other sides are pencilled in close to 1 goal so it’s hard to make a case for an out and out striker.
Belgium versus Italy is the pick of the first round of group games and this looks like the ideal match-up for Eden Hazard.
The stand-in Belgium skipper had a really disappointing season in Engalnd but there were signs that a return to form was imminent as the domestic campaign drew to a close.
The Azzurri are likely to line-up with a 3 man defence that will see Andrea Barzagli tasked with the job of keeping Hazard quiet. It could be a long night for the 35 year old and he may well struggle to cope with the pace of Hazard. The Chelsea forward was the most fouled Premier League player when he picked up the 2014/15 PFA Player of the Year crown and that is one area in which he is capable of picking up a bonus point. Throw in a willingness to cut inside to get shots on target and the possibility of winning a series of corners by attacking Barzagli down the flank, then it soon becomes clear that Hazard has plenty of upside.
The Belgium number 10 is also likely to take any penalties that come the way of the Red Devils – an added bonus for MVP bettors – can he put in a Man of the Match performance?