3 Days Later - Part 2

Welcome to Part 2, where I cover my thoughts on the changes themselves.

If you haven’t already, you can start with Part 1 which covers the wider issues of trust, including my inner incandescent fury at how this was handled not just on Friday but in all the sequence of events that got us there.

But we’ve got to focus on the practical stuff. It’s time for cooler heads now.

New Dividend Structure and Leagues. Does it work?

Platform Sustainability

This is the reason Leagues were introduced. 

It isn’t really about it being fairer to judge players within leagues. 

Or making it easier for new customers to get on board more comfortably as they can just use their home league. 

Or any of the other justifications given in the Q+A.

It is about platform sustainability, and the amount of money FI are dishing out. Particularly when a very popular player wins a huge payout. They did at least admit to this in Saturday’s much less glitzy follow up statement.

This is the thing I really, really struggled with on Friday night. I just could not grasp why this had been done because the reasons given on the Q+A just did not add up. 

This was not something people wanted. It had never been even hinted at by anyone, that I am aware of, as even an option. 

It was highly destructive. It was worse than a general dividend decrease which I think people could have, very reluctantly, swallowed.

This just smashed the portfolio values of the majority of traders and for holders of the most popular assets on FI. Utterly devastating. Utterly disrespectful of their most loyal customers even.

I couldn’t get right with this. 

After time for reflection, I still can’t. 

But over the weekend, I have developed my thinking and do at least feel I understand more about why this was done. I have even come to the conclusion that from the point of view of sustainability it makes a lot of sense, certainly if you were starting a platform from day 1.

However. I swear I could have come up with ways to achieve these ends a little more gradually, giving traders time to more naturally adjust, and not just instantly smash portfolio values overnight. 

I am so sure a competent person could have achieved that. With the information FI had that we do not, the unsustainable financial position should have been seen coming much, much earlier. And action should have been taken earlier. This is far, far too late. 

So that sense of astonishment and anger that they did this in one swing of the axe to the cost of loyal traders remains. With what must be over 10,000+ hours of experience on this platform, living and breathing every twist and turn of it, I did not expect it. I did not predict it. So if that makes anyone else feel better that they didn’t either, there it is.

I thought we may see some kind of dividend reduction as a possibility, I did not expect them to upend the game this drastically. Of course, we deal with changes to the terms all the time. For years we have done so. Predicting them has even felt like part of the game and has resulted in major profits if done successfully. Mostly, changes have been in our favour. Sometimes not. But never anything like this.

But again, putting this aside.

In terms of sustainability, this new dividend structure is much better for both FI and for traders who need stability above all else. 

Not only are payouts just lower, they are also more predictable and far less spikey. If someone like Bruno, Kroos or Sancho goes on a run of 2-3 big wins, they are not fearing it like a hammer blow anymore. 

It is no surprise to me that the 30 day window remaining (from time of announcement on Friday) on large payouts is ending just before those big CL Gold Nights where the big hitters are very likely to win. This is so, so expensive for them and with struggling financials they will have been terrified of this approaching. This is probably what forced their hand to do this now.

Payouts for Star Players are now a fraction, and this is what slams the value at the top end. And this is why we see charts showing (correctly) 75% or even more knocked off the yields of the big hitters.

What we will see, and more on this below, is that a lot of other players do actually benefit. 

But for FI purposes, this looks like a much, much more sustainable way of doing business that should result in less pressure to make kneejerk decisions. 

So, is introducing it this late in one swing of the axe an utter cluster**** and omnishambles? Certainly.

Is it a decent system that could work going forward if FI remained standing? 

I would say yes, it is.

I would suggest that in the far future for FI or any other company, this is further tweaked, to give a percentage based system that flexes dividends depending on market performance. 

To avoid these boom and bust dividend doubling then dividend decreases again. And reduce the incentive for the company to hide things from us.

Leagues. Will they be fun? Can they be profitable?

All of the misery aside, those who were following my Live analysis on Saturday will know that over the day, the more I looked at it, the more positive I became on Leagues as a concept. 

As a game, it is possibly better than what we have now. 

It can certainly bring significant rewards for good traders, if played correctly and we adjust our mindset and our strategy as I will discuss below.

My headlines:

A future FI will NOT be about Stars. This is a Squad game now. 

We will no longer be pulling in 28p or 33p in dividends from a massive, thrilling win for Bruno, Kroos or now Bale and the like.

Just not going to happen. We are used to trying to find such reliable stars to collect those big hauls. But their wings have been clipped. And this is why their prices have plummeted. And will never recover to previous levels in this dividend structure. There is no logical reason for that anymore. (Actually, there was never a clearly logical reason for prices to be £15 either, beyond assumptions of future dividend increases which were never guaranteed). 

I will cover potential price ceilings in the Q+A later this evening. (Is promising Q+A’s later a meme yet, or is it too soon?).

However, some players are undoubted winners from this new system. And, we may still be taking some very worthwhile dividends home from a match day.

But here is the difference. This will be a result of having multiple winners. It is possible, if we played a perfect game, on a perfect day, for 36 (!) of our players to win. 

Obviously, we will be fortunate to ever see even one perfect day where we win every dividend going, most likely. But I spent a fair bit of Saturday looking at how close we might reasonably get consistently.

Let’s look at one example recent match day if played out under Leagues. I covered 4 such match days on Saturday, but all came to consistent conclusions. If you want to see the rest, the full article is available on the Blog page of the site.

You can click to make the picture bigger. Excuse the amateur spreadsheet but I was working very rapidly on Saturday covering a lot of ground.

 

This is Sunday 28th February. It would have been quite a generous day, 3 Silver Leagues in play. Not many of those scheduled but with the way fixtures are moving around, it is hard to see exactly what is coming from the raw calendar. 

In other examples I picked weaker days with a miserable number of Bronze Days, but they played out fairly similar in the end – even on these days there was a decent clutch of dividends you could take home if you had enough winners. And on such days, the odds of winning are higher too.

What do we discover if looking at Sunday 28th as if it was played out under Leagues?

This was Bale’s first big day. In the existing (old?) system he racked up 28p for top midfielder and star and 5p for media. Let’s see what happens when we apply the new system.

Bale is hammered much like any Star is now.  Even though he picks up both Star and Media too he ends up with just 5p. Not 33p. Mother. of God. It may take a while for that not to shock me but that is reality now.

Other big winners were Eriksen and Badiashile, 14p each. New system? Just 2p each. 

Gikiewicz, Augsburg keeper was the top keeper that day earning 3p for that. But he now gets hammered. This exposes a small wrinkle – as a Bundesliga keeper on a Bronze he is not eligible at all. Even though Gikiewicz was apparently the best keeper according to the matrix, it doesn’t count!  

That win goes to 3 Silver keepers instead , Pickford, Donnarumma, Larsonneur who now share that 3p between them at 1p each.

The full blog contains my thoughts on that (or rather, confused screaming), but it is a relatively minor issue so lets not focus there today.

So. We’ve just discussed the losers. And there are big losers as these stars or top performers are seriously getting their winnings reined in. But there are winners who were losers before. And some pretty good ones.

Alexander Arnold. Christensen. Jones. Kovacic. Son. Donnarumma. Pickford. Ghoulam. Toloi. De Paul. Lukaku. Rebic. Larsonneur. Abdelhamid. Andre. Tchouameni. Jovetic. Diony. Gouweleeuw. Grilitisch. Bailey. Emerson. Puertas. Felix.

All of these players win dividends when they would not have before. Quite incredible.

So on Friday we got some very useful tables shared on Twitter which highlighted how much the stars are losing. And these figures were accurate, huge and shocking. 75% in historic yield wiped out. (Not future yield, necessarily – really depends on whether what they earned so far this season was an over or under performance). 

So this is why the top end of the market crashed. And perfectly rationally. However, it definitely crashed much harder than it would if you were really fixing prices at a rational level. This was the economics of fear setting the price, rather than dividend potential. In reality, FI chopped the premiums from their previous potential ceilings of perhaps £12 to just £3-4. In reality, they were only around £6-7 anyway because times weren’t good even before Friday. But more on that in the Q+A. 

Some of the potential yield for the big hitters is just gone as there was a dividend reduction. But the primary reason that stars are losing is because those prizes are redistributed to the “Squad”.

And this is why any sensible strategy in future will be squad based. There will be more in the members area about how that changes a portfolio and what players might suit it best.

But I would imagine a portfolio perhaps of around 60 players may now prove optimal. Really strong, well targetted players who can hoover up dividends like this each and every week. It is possible to achieve that. 

And I think we will be able to achieve it without torching our portfolios and starting again, certainly if it is based on players I would typically be positive on in my Scouting. The matrix has not changed. It is one of the few things that hasn’t.

I have always had a consistent recommendation not to put much more than 10-20% in premium players in any case. Not that I predicted they would be slammed by Leagues – this took me by surprise.

But generally because this is not where the best value is in the market, never was. And secondly because as players with very high expectations on their shoulders they are always at most risk of being battered by changes, be that on the pitch or on the platform. 

Thing is, lot of the sorts of players that I generally favour in Scouting are coming out well here. 

I would say that it would be very reasonable for a good trader to be holding the following last Sunday:

– TAA (if picked up after the dip, anyway), Jones, Kovacic, Bale, Son, Eriksen, de Paul, Lukaku, Badiashile, Tchouameni, Bailey. This would all be consistent with my recent scouting. The combined return from these players would be 20p. Really not a bad haul. And I can see how cheering all of those over the winning line on that Sunday would be both fun and rewarding.

Tchouameni in particular is worth highlighting not particularly because of him but because of the sort of player he is. This sort of cheap player had a low price already and has a lot to gain from this new more squad based system. Like he would have done here, he has so many opportunities now to earn dividends and gain momentum. Continuing to seek out value like this will be a big focus of scouting ahead, assuming there is a platform to scout for.

So, there are lots of parts of a good portfolio that can be left to run, assuming of course that you are continuing with FI and are going along with that ride. Either because of supreme confidence (I have actually spoken to such people over the weekend!) or because prices are so low they feel they have very little choice than to hope for the best (and I suspect that was the more common view amongst those who did not sell immediately). 

But we can improve our results there. Now we know to adapt and we are playing more of a “Squad” game than a “Star Player” game, there are other players we could definitely bring into our net from that bunch of losers from that Sunday who would now be winners under Leagues. 

You may branch into someone like Pickford or Donnarumma. Our Squads will most likely need keepers but I am a bit cautious here for now until I have done more research anyway. The answer will be yes but at just 1p per time that is a lot of wins our stopper needs to be racking up. Presumably, they will get sold down to prices where that is viable. But I would perhaps hang fire on the keepers for now.

Someone like Christensen, certainly. The high baseline CB should enjoy a golden era of relentlessly underwhelming yet ultimately pretty decent 1p dividends. I am sure we will find many of these at Bayern, Chelsea, City and the like. 

A Rebic would work now where he would not have before. Again another big goalscorer former IPD style player that people wanted to be brought in via a matrix change. No need. Here it is. 

Like I said on the Live Blog for Haaland or Mbappé – this sort of player is, in the sort of irony that I only ever see on FI in real life, more relevant to FI scoring system than ever. So after the price adjusts, you can expect me to become a Haaland convert where as before I would not be doing my job if I didn’t highlight his significant weaknesses in the FI system.

But he will have no such sentiment issue now from those thinking men and women sceptical of his viability. And neither will some of the goalscorers like Rebic, Andre Silva, Immobile, Belotti etc. This is good for them especially as their prices were already smashed by the IPD change.

André from Lille, for sure. He is a big baseliner with a goal in him. Could be a regular magnet of those 1p and 2p dividends throughout a season. It was difficult for him to get his head above water often enough to be worth it, unless as a punt pick like you might get that classic occasional winner Maximilian Arnold at that perfect time when everyone has forgotten about him. Now, longer holds of such players is much more viable.

So, with our existing FIT Scouting style portfolio we might have made 20p last Sunday. If we factor in how we would have adapted in a Squad based world we could have added 2-4 more little wins there. So we probably bump ourselves up to 24p-26p or so that day.

Really not bad. It’s not the thrilling adrenaline hit of getting 33p for a single big day from Bale. But it’s pretty good, and it is more reliable. We can expect more consistent results from this system. Instead of the jackpot win, we can expect smaller wins but wins pretty much every single major match day if we have a good portfolio.

Like I say, I analyse 4 other match days in the full blog I will not include in this Summary. They are consistent with the above conclusions. Here are the highlights of what all of this exposed:

– Stars have been hammered.

– It is a Squad based game now, where you want multiple players racking up wins.

– Whilst Stars have their wings massively clipped, the prizes are handed out to a MUCH wider group of players who will now win dividends when they did not before.

– A good portfolio before these changes, with many likely winners, is still probably largely a good portfolio. 

– But, we will want to adapt in our selections to bring in players who can succeed in Leagues that would not have been very good before. We can significantly increase our success this way.

– In particular, someone like Haaland or Mbappé or any big goalscoring striker like Andre Silva or Immobile that really struggled in the old system as they would be beaten by the Insigne’s of this world are MUCH more viable. Same goes for others like high baseline mids and CB’s. (Note: many people wanted these players like Haaland made more FI suitable by a scoring matrix tweak. There is now basically no need – Leagues fixes this huge gap between “the eye test” of a fan and the scoring system.)

– On pretty average days where Match days were full of miserable Bronze days, where the selections I may have chosen did not even do particularly well, we still might reasonably take home 7p or so. It ain’t no Star Man 33p thriller. But it’s better than a kick in the… I’ll end that sentence there this is a clean site. Mostly.

– That said, a decent olive branch from FI would be a return of a similar offer to what we had in the early days of COVID – lower the bar for Silver Days, to ensure fewer big Saturday/Sunday match days would not just have a miserable clutch of Bronze days making them really unappealing and potentially subduing trading in the week leading up to it.  

– When I ran a CL R16 night as if it was a Gold Day Quarter Final in the new system, it was obvious that the CL/Europa nights we used to prioritise so much are now significantly less rewarding. 

Players with these games still get a significant boost. But we will no longer be falling over ourselves to priortise these players. A mild silver lining to this is that teams who are knocked out, Monaco, Lille for example, are now more appealing. Being knocked out is no longer a major value killer. Maybe some people like that idea, it smooths out the spikes a bit. Not sure myself, but there you go that is how it is now.

– The new incentives clearly result in a wider, flatter market in terms of prices. By which I mean, we will not have premiums who are extending so far ahead of the rest of the pack in price. Money will be more evenly distributed over a wider range of players who will be cheaper. There is more on this in the Q+A later. Which is actually going to be a Part 3 at this point.

Conclusion

So after all my many hours of looking at this where did I get to?

Again, parking the giant elephant in the room of trust, which I covered in Part 1 and whether we will ever see this new system operate…

The new dividend structure and Leagues in general definitely looks more sustainable. Far less risky for FI. The payouts are lower. But more importantly more spread out amongst players who will be more lightly owned.

And crucially, a string of wins for a big hitter with wide ownership is now FAR less likely to put them under financial pressure.

Whilst this is their perspective, or seems that way, it isn’t. Really, what we need, more than anything else, is a system that is sustainable. We must avoid situations like we have had this weekend, in this, or any other product. It’s crucial. Lives have been turned upside down here and it is heartbreaking to read the stories.

From the perspective of we traders, in raw terms of the game and the value proposition:

– Rewards are there. Whilst the top end of the market have been hammered, there is scope for significant and rewarding dividends for traders who pick a suitable portfolio for Leagues.

– An existing good portfolio, of the type I would generally run with, is already largely suitable for such a system. The scoring matrix has not changed. Players who were good, are still good.

– But by adapting slightly, it is very possible to improve our results. There will also be players who were not good for performance who are good now. e.g Haaland

– Many cheaper players, who struggled to get oxygen as they could not be the top Star or top positional winner consistently enough (Sabitzer, Tchouameni etc) should eventually rise in this new system. They can win more consistently and maintain momentum far more easily.

– In my opinion, this is a better game to play. Watching multiple winners cross the finish line and racking up multiple wins in multiple leagues is more fun in my view – I’ll feel like I earned the wins more and a bit less like the the lottery of game winning goal is bringing it home for me.

– A good performance from one of our EPL or Bundesliga guys is no longer inevitably overshadowed by that irritating late day big performance from Messi (irritating, if you aren’t holding him, mind!). We can cheer on a La Liga player and an EPL player and not be upset when one beats the other.

– I will miss that big jackpot star man win. But by evening out the prize pool, our consistency will be rewarded more. We are no longer going to miss a huge payout just because someone took an extra corner. 

– We may not get a thrilling individual win, but it can be thrilling to get a lot of our players winning. And there will be fewer instances of disappointment when someone misses out – i.e no more Twitter meltdown when Sancho falls short by a point. Much less riding on the dreaded OPTA overnight “VAR” review. He may come second, or even if he just misses out, no big deal now, we have other dogs in the fight.

– What I have not given a great deal of thought to yet, but will in future articles, is match day trading. How will a player gain traction now? Will the flippers or “on the win” buyers know who to chase? There is no single target Star now, only up to 36 winners who all take a share of the positivity. 

That’s what I think about leagues. Nobody shoot me for being positive about that. It’s a better system in my view. I have already set out my seperate fury about the way this was done in Part 1.

But overall, assuming FI do somehow get over this disaster, I can imagine myself looking forward to and enjoying playing in this new system, and I believe I would be rewarded for doing so.

Part 3 - Coming this evening - Best Q+A's from the weekend (I am actively going to be working on putting this together and am not delaying this to build hype...)

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