SINGAPORE – A year after the inaugural Singapore Premier League (SPL) fantasy football game, SPL Real Manager, was launched to much fanfare in March 2022, fans are now left in the lurch with no new season in sight.
The multi-year partnership between the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and fantasy sports platform Funatix Club was reportedly for an initial period of three years and worth US$600,000 (S$796,000).
However, the SPL Real Manager has yet to start this season despite the league kicking off on Feb 24.
Responding to The Straits Times’ queries, FAS director of commercial and marketing Jonathan Wong said on Wednesday: “The SPL Real Manager Fantasy Football application is currently suspended for the 2023 SPL season.
“Funatix Club, the parent company of the Real Manager Fantasy Soccer platform used for the SPL Real Manager Fantasy Football, has suspended its operations in Asia, amid ongoing discussions of being acquired by several interested parties.
“FAS is in discussions with Funatix Club to review its business partnership with them – including on compensatory matters – and seeks a speedy resolution to this situation.”
The local football governing body did not provide a timeline for the possible restart of the game and Funatix Club, which continues to run similar fantasy games in other European Leagues in Greece and Serbia, could not be reached for comment.
Fully launched in May 2022, the SPL Real Manager app was available on the Google play store and Apple app store.
Users could pick a team of SPL players ahead of every match week and collected points based on the footballers’ real-life performances.
Prizes were offered for the top three overall participants, with the champion receiving a Prism+ TV along with a 2021/22 national football team jersey.
Last season’s overall winner, who wanted to be known only as ZY Quah, said he received his prizes in December. The 31-year-old public servant was disappointed when he found out that the fantasy game was not returning for this season.
Quah, who named his team #SupportLocal, said: “I was surprised that the game did not continue. There was no announcement or any update, and fans just had to wait and accept that the game is not going to happen as the league has already started.
“Not only did the game make me watch more SPL matches, I also followed the league very closely like reading the team news and match previews to check on player availability, (waiting) for the starting line-ups to make substitutions and following all teams closely including the weaker teams.”
Quah said the game had thousands of participants and even attracted foreign players, who were excluded from the rankings pages after a few rounds.
He added: “I feel that the hits and misses of your selected team really help to make the match experience much more exciting. For instance, I can clearly remember how kan cheong (nervous) I was during the final match week as I almost lost the top position.”
Institute of Technical Education student Imran, 19, who gave only his first name, finished third overall and won a Prism+ soundbar and a jersey. He said: “I really think the game keeps you invested in the league. As a fan, I watched only a few SPL matches before the game was released. But when the game was out, I would watch almost every SPL match.
“When they just discontinued it without letting us know anything, it is really a disappointment. It is making me lose interest in the league.”