Burnley’s FPL Three have committed football treason - so it’s off with their heads, right?

Three Burnley players captained Erling Haaland in Fantasy Premier League last Friday - have they done something terrible? Or should we, maybe, just not care?
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The first weekend of the Premier League is in the books, and with it the first deeply confected minor controversy. You see, no fewer than three of Burnley’s players have committed treason. Yes, actual treason. Well, they put an opposing player in their Fantasy Premier League team, anyway. Off to the gallows with them.

The response to this gross act of turncoatery has been predictable from start to finish – a very small number of fans lost their minds over it, every unreadable newspaper in the land wrote an online story about it, and suddenly people called things like Brian who don’t even support Burnley have developed An Opinion and must obey their natural instincts to share it.

Erling Haaland celebrates his second goal at Turf Moor - not pictured, three Burnley players pumping their fists in the dugout.Erling Haaland celebrates his second goal at Turf Moor - not pictured, three Burnley players pumping their fists in the dugout.
Erling Haaland celebrates his second goal at Turf Moor - not pictured, three Burnley players pumping their fists in the dugout.
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Here are the facts of this dire case, then, for anyone fortunate enough to have missed it yesterday – three Burnley players (Jack Cork, Josh Brownhill and Arijanet Muric) selected Manchester City’s Erling Haaland for their FPL teams and even dared to captain him (a move which sees said skipper bag double points) when he was playing against their actual team on Friday night. Haaland scored two goals and therefore quite a lot of points, and now the Burnley players in question have done… well, something terrible, presumably, although it isn’t immediately clear what.

They didn’t profit from picking Haaland, at least not to the tune of anything tangible. Hardly anyone wins anything from playing FPL unless they’ve bet on it with their friends – there are only a tiny handful of prizes available to the eight million plus players in the game, and most of them are things like “tickets to a game and an FA-branded jacket”. In other words, stuff that Premier League players are not deeply incentivised to earn. The notion that there was any “corruption” here seems laughable. Playing a free fantasy football game is not gambling, either.

And it’s worth noting that the three players all sat on the bench at the start of the play, with only Brownhill coming on in second-half stoppage time of the 3-0 defeat. They couldn’t have influenced the outcome if they’d tried, and the notion that they would have done so solely for bragging rights among their squad or friend groups – presumably the actual motivation for selecting Haaland, something that 90% of their fellow players in the game have done - is patently absurd.

So really all the FPL Three have done is create “a bad look”, although the only people who appear to be bothered are the angry Keiths of the world who lose their minds over players going for a drink after a defeat and suchlike. Do we really believe that these players wanted Haaland to score more than they wanted to win the match? Are we really living in a world where anyone finds it plausible that a person cannot hold the thoughts “I would like to score points in a fantasy football game” and “I will not let that stop me playing my best” in their head at the same time? Even professional footballers can probably hack that level of cognitive dissonance. It doesn’t require a doctorate in philosophy to pick through.

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There’s an argument that Premier League players being involved in FPL has caused problems – or, more accurately, minor inconveniences – before. Several Aston Villa players transferring Jack Grealish out of their squads a couple of years ago was the spark for a minor hoo-ha over whether the tip-off that he was injured could help forthcoming opponents, although that was a similarly small storm in an equally worn-out teacup. Basically, Premier League players playing FPL really doesn’t affect much, and while it might be sensible enough that some clubs have reportedly banned their charges from getting involved, it’s fair to say that nobody is getting hurt, save perhaps for various Brians and Keiths rupturing the occasional blood vessel.

Fundamentally, this is just another example of professional football players transpiring to be normal human beings, who do normal human things like captain Erling Haaland in the FPL, because that’s just how you do well in the FPL. Normal human beings should also be able to recognise that selecting Haaland for your team does not indicate any disrespect for your actual, real-life football team, and that we’re just looking at a basic acknowledgement of Haaland’s excellence rather than, for instance, a protest from Brownhill over being displaced from the side by Sander Berge.

So sure, it’s a “bad look”, but if it only looks bad to the pettiest and angriest members of society, should we really make any effort to stop it? Is that really the place we should focus our mental energy? Probably not. Besides, we’ve already got a VAR controversy to fume about. Priorities, right?

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