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Friday, June 5, 2015

The Daily Payoff: Mondogoal Takes a Gamble on FIFA World Cup

(This column appears regularly at The Daily Payoff)

By TERRY LYONS, Contributing Columnist for The Daily Payoff

The United States of America’s Justice Department’s beat-down on the upper echelon executives of FIFA brought a bit more than a small share of criticism and focus upon the governing body for world futbol. It brought an all-out public relations disaster as the lead story on every network newscast in the world, and even worse, FIFA’s downfall became the punch line for comedic genius such as “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” or “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

The early morning arrests of several FIFA executives by Swiss authorities at the posh Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich fast-became the b-roll for a generation of FIFA’s critics. As the raid was barely underway, with charges under the USA’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), detailed accusations and background were printed in the morning editions of The New York Times which brought a level of seriousness that organized futbol has never seen, but its fans had long expected. The accusations were wide-ranging and were enough to eventually cause the resignation of longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The fall-out will continue for the rest of the year as the US Justice Department’s Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, builds the case.

The focus of the alleged corruption and bribery charge was centered on FIFA’s designation of Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) as World Cup event sites but caught in the crosshairs of the scandal is the fact the 2015 Women’s World Cup is being staged in Canada from June 6 to July 5, right on the front doorstep of the FIFA scandal. One might think the highly visible RICO charges for such a highly visible world event might be cause for the sponsors and affiliates of the Women’s World Cup to run for the Hudson Bay, but that has not been the case as the women kick-off in Canada. Event sponsors, already neck-deep in their investment, have turned a blind eye to the off-the-pitch misconduct and are focusing on the athletes and competition itself.

One such affiliate is Mondogoal, a relatively new player in the daily fantasy sports world, which is staging a daily fantasy game for the Women’s World Cup. While not an “official” sponsor of FIFA, Mondogoal operates globally and focuses its efforts in the United States, Britain, Canada, Ireland and Brazil - all hotbeds of international futbol. The company is incorporated out of the Isle of Man and has business operations in the USA. Mondogoal’s Women’s World Cup offering will be the first fantasy game ever staged for women’s sport.

“The Women’s World Cup is a phenomenal platform for the game, and will draw not just passionate soccer fans but a casual audience interested in women’s sports and a global event,” said Shergul Arshad, CEO of Mondogoal. “By creating this game for a global audience we will provide a new engagement platform, which we believe, will raise the visibility and interest not just for soccer but for women’s sports as well.

“In North America, daily fantasy sports has taken off, and interest in soccer is at an all-time high. We are making sure the North American soccer fan not only can play fantasy contests involving the popular European leagues, but also from the best soccer, locally,” he said.

To that end, Mondogoal is offering fantasy players a way to blend both the Women’s World Cup players with those of men’s competitions being staged at the same time, notably in North America’s Major League Soccer (MLS), Europe’s Champions League final and the Copa America. The new blend will be the first time fantasy sports is offered on a “co-ed” basis.

Digging into the particulars, daily fantasy players can pick a team of 11 female players from the four Women’s World Cup matches on event days, using Mondogoal’s salary cap style of play to build a fantasy team. If the fantasy player doesn’t like the full offering from the women’s matches, they can mix and match with the men’s contests taking place the same day. As with all fantasy products, points are accrued for positive “on-the-pitch” statistics, such as goals, and assists. The fantasy winner is the person who picks the perfect fantasy team of players who compile the most positive statistics for the entire day.

Mondogoal has a deal with Perform’s Opta Sports to compile all the various stats - in real time - and tracks the nuances of the obvious stats, but also tackles won-lost, shots on goal, passes completed, or stats for goaltenders, like saves and shut-outs.

The take-away from Mondogoal’s foray into women’s sports, via the Women’s World Cup, is the fact the daily fantasy sports world is moving full speed ahead and flourishing. While some may think daily fantasy is a little too close to actually gambling on the outcome of a game, the fact of the matter is that daily fantasy might just have more credibility than the FIFA executives carted off in the dawn air in Zurich.

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