Killarney company makes big bet on fantasy football

Aiming to become football’s global fantasy league betting solution, Totel Football employs 10 with 30 jobs in the pipeline

Totel Football has a customer base of 15,000, according to business development manager Keith McDonnell

Totel Football has a customer base of 15,000, according to business development manager Keith McDonnell

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 01:00

Slaving over team selections for hours at a time and anxiously awaiting news of possible injuries to your star player. The life of a dedicated fantasy football manager can be all too stressful.

Perhaps what increases the exasperation is the fact that quite often all this effort is for scant reward, a problem Totel Football founder, Kerryman Declan O’Sullivan, first spotted in 2010.

“Declan saw that large numbers of fantasy managers put a lot of time into picking a squad,” says the Totel Football’s London-based business development manager, Keith McDonnell. “Then as the season goes on they almost always fall down the leaderboard and with that lose interest in the game.”

With Totel Football though, McDonnell explains that while players create a team and gain points in “pretty much” the same way you would with any fantasy football game, they’re also wagering money on the performance of that side.

Players can create a new team – and indeed a new bet – several times each week, whether that’s in the Premier League, Champions League or almost any top division in the European game.

Target market
“You’re starting a new bet every time you pick a team,” says McDonnell who began working with the company in 2012, just as Totel Football launched officially.

Noting that there are “5½ million fantasy [football] customers in the UK” alone, McDonnell says it’s natural to assume that a lot of this target market enjoy the odd bet as well.

“We’ve got two versions of the product,” he explains, “the first is the 11-a-side and the second is six-a-side version.

“So, take a normal weekend in the English Premier League. For the 11-a-side version you look at the whole weekend of 10 fixtures spread across Saturday, Sunday and Monday. However, if you miss the Saturday games you can then play the six-a-side version of the game with only matches on the Sunday and Monday counted.”

Betting is based on a “networked pools” model which to a large degree mirrors the commonly used online poker system in which players are pooled “from many different betting operators to deliver scale and liquidity”.

The players, says McDonnell, “bet into the pot” and after the company “take out a deduction which covers costs and profits to us and our operating partners”, winning payouts are determined by bet levels and points accumulated through the performance of team selections.

Budding fantasy football geniuses also have the chance to bag £100,000 (€118,000) if the 11 players they pick for a particular set of fixtures – such as a round of Champions League games – all make up the “dream team” for that “gamesweek”.

Employing 10 IT development workers in its Killarney base, as well as additional development staff in Eastern Europe, the company plans to create another 30 jobs in Kerry “over the next year or so”.

Expected deals
This number though, is subject to some expected deals being signed with new business partners from across the globe, as well as some “household names in the UK and Ireland who are going to come on board in the next three to six months leading into the 2014 World Cup”.

O’Sullivan founded the company with his own funds and remains the majority shareholder, while a number of his friends and family own a small amount of equity. McDonnell himself owns “around 15 per cent” of the company while there are also a number of other private investors on board as well as Asian online gaming powerhouse AsianLogic.

The company is, says McDonnell, “aiming to be the global [fantasy league betting] solution for football” before possibly “extending into other sports” depending on what their bookmaking and media partners have an appetite for.

With a current customer base of 15,000 (of which more than 1,000 “bet week-in week-out”) McDonnell adds that the company recently signed a partnership agreement with Latin America betting company Ocho Gaming, while distribution deals with media sites such as Goal. com have also begun to roll in. “We’re really happy with how things are going,” says McDonnell. “The real way we can boost numbers [playing Totel Football] is by boosting our number of B2B partners. We’ve kept costs reasonably tight for a start-up but now we’re ready to accelerate.”