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Fantasy Premier League boasts over 4.4 million users across the globe, challenging football fans to put their knowledge and skills to the test and choose a team worthy of beating friends and fans worldwide.

We chatted to the Premier League’s Head of Digital, Martin Axford, to get the lowdown on selecting the perfect team and find out a little more about one of the world’s best loved Fantasy Football game.

Martin Axford – Head of Digital at Premier League

What is Fantasy Premier League and how do you play?

Fantasy Premier League is the official Fantasy Football game of the Premier League. You start out with a budget of 100million to select a squad of 15 players; two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfields and three forwards.

With each round of matches during the Premier League season you need to nominate your starting 11 and select a captain. This is probably the most important player each week, as your captain will score double points. During each match of the Premier League season you’ll score points for actions completed by your squad within 90 minutes of playing.

If a forward scores a goal, they will score four points for that goal, if a midfielder scores a goal, they will score 5 point and a defender is awarded 6 points for every goal they score. There are lots of different actions that players can receive points for, but it’s very straight forward and totally transparent. We make sure we’re very careful to review every decision that gets made in the game to ensure the game is credible and people can continue to enjoy it with confidence.

Is Fantasy Premier League a year-round job or (like the players) do you get the summer off?

It’s definitely a year round job, in actual fact, the summer is probably our busiest period as there is so much to do ahead of the season kicking off. Not only do you have three clubs leaving the league and another three being introduced but there’s a huge turnaround in terms of assets that need to be created every summer to make sure that people return to play the game they enjoyed last season.

It’s also reviewing how the game improvements that we’ve made over the season prior are going to play out. This season there have been a number of new things that people may have noticed but the biggest two features are the free hit chip that replaced all out attack and then we’ve launched a new draft game as well.

How important is mobile to Fantasy Premier League?

It’s fundamental to everything that we’re striving to deliver. When we re-launched our digital strategy at the beginning of last season we launched a new website as well as our mobile app and Fantasy is very much the heartbeat of it. The opening weekend the app had 550 million screen views and that’s just in the space of three days. It’s also been downloaded 11 million times over the past year since it’s launch.

We know that we had to make sure the services were equipped to deliver the best and most optimal fantasy experience via mobile. People are snacking on content more and more. They’re visiting the website and the app more frequently and getting instant hits. We know that our fans hunger after statistics, we know that they want the editorial expertise and short form video clips and obviously that’s part of the mix that we’re delivering there.

Who plays Fantasy Premier League?

From what our users tell us when they register we’ve got a number of players in every country in the world, which is fantastic. The UK takes up 40% of the 4.4 million people that are playing it this season but then we look at Malaysia who contributes 5% of that and then Ireland, Egypt and it’s very popular in the US. The interesting thing this season is that the users that are coming from the States are over indexing within our new fantasy draft game. This bares out part of the strategy we’ve developed and the reason why we launched draft because that’s the game the States have grown up with rather than the salary cap we play here.

How much of points allocation is automated, and how much (e.g bonus points) is judged by your team?

All of our points are automated – nothing is subjective. We are very clear on the actions that will receive points so even the bonus point system, which some people may think is awarded subjectively, is also objective.

Twitter seems to be really vital for you – tell us about how you use the platform to engage with Fantasy Managers.

Twitter is hugely important… Last season was the first that we started to diversify our social offering. Previously everything we communicated went through our central channel. So when we started to target unique audiences more effectively with content that was relevant to them, Fantasy was obviously a critical area for us because it allows us to inform, engage and enhance user experience, not just across match weeks but also in the build up.

We’re delivering a lot more context and we’re communicating things to a very large fan base more effectively than we have been able to previously. It’s been really pleasing to see and the feedback and reaction we get, whether it’s good or band it’s all really useful in helping us improve the services and also helping people enjoy what is a great Premier League experience.

What has been your proudest moment whilst working on Fantasy Football?

I’m not sure there’s one stand out moment but the growth each season is always really pleasing for the people involved with the game and I think it’s just a testament to how popular the Premier League is. I think last season when we tipped the 3m milestone at the start of the season was a big plus for us. This year we’ve already smashed that record and we have 4.4 million people already registered in the game when we have 4.5 million at the end of last season. At the end of this season I’d hope that we’d be passing the 5 million milestone. It’s a success story that continues to grow.

Finally, how many goals is Harry Kane going to score this season?

Well, I think when you look at his previous seasons; he’s scored in excess of 20 goals across three consecutively. He’s an exceptional talent, he’s an exciting young player and people love to watch him. He’s expensive within the game for good reason so I’m hoping for another 20-goal haul at least.

Download Fantasy Premier League here

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