Automated software or ‘bots’, which track the fantasy football teams of Premier League players and staff, are at the centre of growing concerns over team news leaks.
One Twitter account, believed to be based in Norway, generates an automated tweet once a player or staff member changes a player at their own club. In just over three weeks, the account has highlighted more than 60 ‘transfers’ in and out of Fantasy Premier League teams belonging to players and staff at more than half of top-flight clubs.
Fantasy teams belonging to a Premier League head of performance analysis, a club doctor, a kit man, and even one club’s sous chef, have been highlighted in recent days.
On Sunday, Jack Grealish was not included in Aston Villa’s squad against Leicester due to injury. Many Fantasy Premier League players had already suspected this, thanks to news on Friday that three Villa players and two members of the club’s staff had transferred Grealish out of their respective teams.
Some pre-match team information has always been available online. However, the monitoring of so many Fantasy Premier League accounts belonging to club staff, has led to several clubs now discussing how best to make sure no clues are inadvertently offered up to their opposition hours and, in many cases, days before kick-off.
Premier League players and staff are not breaking any league rules or regulations when playing FPL, which is enjoyed by more than seven million players worldwide.
On February 1, Andy Robertson transferred Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane from his team. Mane did not feature in the matchday squad for Liverpool at home to Brighton two days later.
In Gameweek 20, Wes Morgan and Hamza Choudhury both transferred Jamie Vardy out of their teams. Vardy missed the next four games through injury.
The problem could continue to grow as more accounts belonging to players and staff are identified and tracked.
One solution, however unpopular, could be for clubs to ask players and staff not to pick players from their club.