The True Cost of Fantasy Football

It’s that time of the year again, tomorrow begins the first official NFL Sunday, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic.  It’s when us fantasy football nuts come out of the woodwork, and trust me there are many of us.  According to 2010 statistics, fantasy football is an $800 million industry, with over 22 million participants.  Initially you only think of the costs involved with initial league fees, but there is so much more!  There are pick’em pools, suicide and survivor leagues, draft kits, premium stat tracker tools, and even the cost of legally insuring your fantasy players should they suffer a season ending injury.  What happened to those days of checking your players fantasy statistics in the local newspaper?  You may ask yourself how this relates to personal finance, and for most it might be very little, but I know I have personally blown my household budget on fantasy football expenses.

League fees can be astronomical, I’ve known them to be as high as $1,000.  Luckily for me the more significant amount I pay is $50 for a league, though I do have three different leagues so it adds up!  To take this a step further, I have a league that charges you an additional amount for adding players throughout season as well. Unfortunately we can’t budget for our potential league winnings, however, we can budget our expenses!

Many of us fantasy football nerds remember the fall of Tom Brady in 2008.  Injured in the first game and out for the remainder of the season, not to mention how quick we were to draft Mr. Brady after his elite 2007 season.  It was estimated that his injury alone shifted $150 million worth of fantasy football winnings.  Think of those years when Larry Johnson and Shaun Alexander dropped off the fantasy football map, or perhaps the unexpected injuries that plague Peyton Manning this season.  Enter the unlikely expense you would’ve ever considered, fantasy sports insurance.  For a percentage of your league fee you can recoup said entry fee in case one of your top picks become unable to play early one.  Crazy? I don’t know.  My highest league is $50, I can handle that sort of risk, though if I had $1,000 on the line I might consider it.

Despite the expenses mentioned above, the opportunity cost of fantasy football to both businesses and individuals is a bit more eye opening.  It’s estimated that companies lose out on nearly $1.5 billion in lost productivity, far more than the $800 million dished out in actual cash.  I can remember a story of 5 senior executive that were fired from their wallstreet firms a couple years back because they were forming a fantasy work league.  Their opportunity cost to play fantasy football equates to the lost wages in between jobs, and the possibly differential in compensation.  About 30% of all fantasy football managers monitor their team on company time.  Even though fantasy football isn’t considered an illegal form of gambling, it’s no surprise that corporations are cracking down on them.

As you can see there are about 100 different ways to spend money this football season.  From going out to the local pub to watching your fantasy players tear up the boards, to the entrance fees, and possible insurance of your key players, it’s a recipe for breaking the budget.  Make sure you monitor the cash you pay, and stay responsible at work.  We all love to have fun, and not many are more die hard fantasy footballers than myself, but let’s not alter our financial health over it!


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12 thoughts on “The True Cost of Fantasy Football

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  2. Judith

    If it’s not one thing, it’s another. The men in our neighborhood don’t play fantasy football. Instead, they bicyle.
    They bicycle together (on expensive bicyles in special, expensive bicyle clothing) every morning (including weekends) at 5:00 a.m. When they’re not bicycling, they’re talking about bicycling or shopping for bicycle gear together.

  3. shanendoah@Baking the Budget

    I also play fantasy football, though I only participate in one free league and then do “picks”- also free. But coming from Reno (I lived there for 12 years) football season was a major money maker, even among people who didn’t consider themselves gamblers.

  4. Jon - Free Money Wisdom

    Eh, I would rather be at the gym lifting then paying extra money for a fantasy football league. As a guy I should be all into it. I love football, don’t get me wrong, just not in the fantasy leagues. I’d rather do something that makes me feel good and I where can see progress…

  5. Bryan at Pinch that Penny!

    I am a big fan of fantasy football, but, even so, I am loathe to join a league that costs more than $20 or so. One league that I had been involved with went to a $100 buy-in plus $5 per add/drop transaction. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay that much (I, too, was one of those who drafted Tom Brady in 2008 in the first round, only to lose him in the first game).

    The last couple of years, I’ve also been involved with survival leagues, which I enjoy too. The premise is that you pick one team a week to win, and if they win, you move on, and if they lose, you’re out of the competition. I’ve never won one of these, but it’s fun to play.

  6. Eric

    This might be a little off topic, but I just found the show “The League” on Netflix streaming. I love seeing how much these guys are into their fantasy football leagues.

    I have never done more than an NCAA March Madness bracket for $10 bucks, so seeing how much these leagues cost blows my mind.

  7. Jesse @ BP

    I don’t get involved with football, not really a sports person, but I’ve always been curious about fantasy football and other sports. I’ll forgo that experience though to save on the costs 🙂

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  9. Jacob Alonso

    Wow, I never really thought about that. I certainly lose some productivity when football season starts…

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