Yahoo Fumbles Fantasy Football

People become worked up about fantasy football. That’s not news. But when they become irate at a company organizing fantasy football leagues, that’s different. So when Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football blocked draft picks just a few days before the NFL season begins, tempers were high.

About 19.5 million people play fantasy football, and Yahoo claims to have about four million of them. Users put together a roster of pro players via drafts, trades and the signing of free agents, just as in the real world, with fantasy teams measured by on-field player statistics.

Meanwhile, the industry generates money through gambling revenue, whether it’s among friend and co-workers or in casinos. Fantasy football generates about $1.5 billion annually, and studies have shown that Yahoo is the largest single-source provider for fantasy sports to draw earnings from a free format. In other words, users can play for free, but they’re frequently lured into a paid system that makes them eligible for prizes.

But this week fantasy football fans on Yahoo found themselves frozen out or unable to make their draft picks for about 90 minutes on Tuesday night.   Discussion boards were steaming onWednesday, and many of the complaints were about Yahoo’s lack of response. The company claimed the problem stemmed from a Yahoo server error rather than Yahoo Sports, and that everyone affectedhad received an e-mail about the problem.   “Those who had draft picks scheduled will be rescheduled,” said Yahoo Sports spokesperson Nicol Addison. “They were told they wouldreceive their preferred slots and they did. Everyone is ready for the opening game.”