Service Combines Fantasy Sports and Social Networking

October 11, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Sports News
DETROIT – Ron Marshall, a 32-year-old, African-American entrepreneur based in the Detroit, Michigan, metropolitan area, has created a service that combines two of the Web’s hottest phenomena: fantasy sports and social networking. The site ( ) got off to a bumpy start, but is beginning to see success with its new social network approach.

Ron Marshall loves fantasy sports. No, he really loves fantasy sports. And two years ago, after playing in more than 50 leagues in various sports, he decided to do something about it. “I started playing fantasy football, baseball, and basketball on Yahoo! in 1999,” he says. “By 2005, I realized I was spending almost as much time thinking about and managing my fantasy leagues and teams as I was doing consulting work. That told me I better monetize it or cut back – and I wasn’t about to cut back.”

An entrepreneur by nature, Marshall acted on his favorite business axiom: Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. He quickly started Fantasy Champion Network as a small number of pay-to-play fantasy leagues with cash prizes. Almost as quickly, problems mounted. “We found ourselves in dangerous territory almost immediately. A lot of time was spent working on price structure, league format, and the operational side of things, but we’d done a poor job of realizing the need for corporate partnership for revenue. Overhead was awful and disputes over both incoming and outgoing payments were daunting,” he says. “What I thought was a simple professional fantasy league management model became a blueprint for disaster.”

But something invaluable would come of those tough times. “It became obvious that what the people who played with us valued most wasn’t tweaks or even improvements to the actual game experience; they were in it for the relationships.” This prompted Marshall to take a fresh look at his approach. Instead of just trying to give fantasy players “a better game” or greater rewards and incentives to play, the focus needed to shift to enhancing each player’s experience of playing with other people, many of whom the player has never met. “People liked playing with their friends, and they made friends easily with others in their leagues. This fact was so obvious that, as a fantasy player myself, I was initially blind to its significance.”

Now, Fantasy Champion Network enhances and facilitates the most important aspect of playing fantasy sports, which is often lessened or lost entirely for online players: personal interaction. Rivalry, friendship, camaraderie, the fantasy league as a community; these are the elements that are diluted in the online translation of fantasy gaming from the offline world of meeting at a buddy’s house for the draft and deriding a co-worker in the cube next to you when you play each other.

Various Web sites have done a great job for years at the computation and presentation of statistics for fantasy games, but the social aspect has lagged considerably. People love that they can easily draft a team with a Java tool that lets them put players in a queue and click. Players love the ability to sort stats so easily. But they hate when other players abandon their teams and simply stop playing. They hate when other players cheat by creating more than one team in a league; such collusion hurts the integrity of the league and makes it less fun. Fantasy Champion Network seeks to solve those problems and others that prevent the online fantasy gaming experience from being the complete, satisfying experience it can be.

The service currently manages over 250 fantasy football leagues for players using Yahoo!’s popular fantasy football product. Several players in these leagues have become members of the social network at the core of, where users can create MySpace-like profiles, access news stories and blogs, use real-time chat, join groups for their leagues, create groups of their own, and interact with one another. The Network will begin managing fantasy basketball leagues in the second week of October, and hopes to expand beyond sports into the realms of fantasy TV show games and even fantasy politics. “The remarkable thing about fantasy gaming is that what you can play is only limited by your imagination,” Marshall says.

“The best part is that, as long as you can find people who like what you like and willing to play with you, the friendships built through fantasy gaming can last a lifetime.”