Welcome to this week’s State of the Market. Today I’ll be covering:
- market movements in the last week
- further thoughts on the IPD changes now the dust has settled
- what to do with players we are “stuck” with (And are we really stuck in some cases?)
- what might replace IPD?
- what’s the best strategy for navigating the upcoming announcement on a new win mechanic?
In recent weeks we’ve had a cautiously optimistic market. Some decent price recoveries. Tight-ish spreads for popular players. It looked better as covered last week.
Following the IPD announcement on Friday we’ve had a shockwave. Clearly the obvious “IPD players” lost out often by 20-35% (and losing any bid price at all in many cases). That doesn’t require much explanation.
What was more interesting/alarming was that this created general negative sentiment which, ironically, hit the top end of the market despite Friday’s change very clearly benefiting premium and “core” types of player.
It’s illogical in terms of value, but not entirely unexpected given current sentiment.
This was particularly apparent on Sunday. Though it seems to have stabilised now.
As I mentioned last week – as long as we still have this very volatile pricing information you are going to get these extreme swings – sometimes caused by obvious news, sometimes for no obvious reason at all.
When I wrote my mini-thesis on how to fix FI, reining in IPD was top of the list. Fixing these volatile pricing mechanisms was second. And I still think action is needed on that.
As we know, it just takes one reasonably sized trader to panic or feel the need to express anger and we can see a price appear to dive. We can see that same trader decide he’s changed his mind, cancel his low sell offer and like magic, the price rebounds.
And, if you are a trading group or whale intent on shenanigans, what better time to try to start a panic than after an announcement that has upset lots of people?
I do not think a lot of real money is moving around here at all.
It remains just far too easy for an individual or small group of individuals to mess with the prices.
And the market is still nervous and ready to overreact to any changes on the Blue Button price. I don’t think it’s quite as twitchy as it used to be in parts of 2020 – probably a result of lots of the more reactionary people having left already.
We probably have a more settled group of level headed individuals than we used to. And that may be why the market resisted that first wave of panic on Sunday, time will tell on that.
So what does this mean for the market ahead?
We should still see performances moving prices. I still expect match day winners to do well, particularly when they suit the new trend which will be in that core player sort of direction.
FI under the new CEO have made a very clear statement and picked a side – and it’s the original vision that certainly attracted me in the first place. This is the most important point of Friday’s announcement, and that will become clear when the dust has settled.
FI have clearly recommitted to the original purpose and USP of FI – quality “core” types of players are the way to go. That is very likely to be the next trend as people follow that signal and readjust their strategies.
Yet, many people will also want to hold back and wait and see what the new announcement is – and until we get that – that debate and uncertainty is going to dominate.
We also have to decide what to do with any IPD players we may feel “stuck” with now.
Let’s look at those IPD changes first, then I will come onto consider what options for a new mechanic are on the table.
The art of getting announcements “right” is positioning ourselves to land either as a winner or at least in an acceptable place in almost all credible circumstances.
We should not try to specifically predict and bet heavily on exactly what the announcement will be – we don’t know for sure and even if we get the general concept right details can always trip us up.
We have seen many times in the past more social media tears from people who went all in on specific expected outcomes and then blamed FI when it didn’t happen. This wasn’t FI’s fault. That is trader error. Let’s not be that guy or gal.
IPD - Winners and Losers?
Let’s consider the IPD changes now we have had time to absorb it. And to keep this focused on practical things rather than theory – what types of player have really won or lost from this.
The anger. Trader error, or FI mismanagement?
As expected there is a lot of anger in some quarters with IPD being removed in fairly brutal fashion. Not all unjustified.
Although you do get the typical over reactions in what has become, sadly, an often toxic social media culture. There are some great people on there though and I still like to read it. Or at least some of it!
It is tough to deal with such a rapid change and all of us will take hits to varying degrees.
There is also a point about risk management and personal responsibility though – chasing short term trends is always a risk. You do have to trade what’s in front of you to an extent, but you also have to think about what is coming next.
Navigating these twists and turns in the rules of FI has always been as much a part of successful trading as picking the players themselves. In the vast majority of cases, such changes have benefited traders in a very direct way over the years. This time there are some very clear losers. Although I do think it is a positive change for the longer term.
At it’s core FI has a clear USP that attracted many of us in the first place which is as a longer term, slower burn alternative to traditional betting.
It is worth leaning in to short term trends. But selling up completely and entirely gearing a portfolio towards the short term focused market we were seeing was always very risky. It wasn’t a healthy state of affairs and we knew FI would have to bring in some big changes to set that right. We were discussing those changes and what they should be for months.
So it rings a bit hollow to me if people are claiming they have no responsibility for this – it was a strategy choice to make that ended up being a losing one. The people I have a lot of sympathy for is any new traders from the last 6 months or so – pretty much everything the market will have taught them recently is that chasing short termism was a good thing.
As readers will know I specifically said IPD should be reined in. It’s not like we didn’t see it coming. So there is something here about the dangers of over reacting to short term situations that you know are going to change. If things change fast, there is a good chance it can change back fast too – especially when that change is throwing the whole original concept of the product into chaos.
I do have sympathy with people who lost big because of this change, it’s not something anyone wants to see and ideally we would have never got into that situation.
But as traders we need to be aware of dangers of going all in on short term trends. Trends should be leaned into but we should never be betting the shop on them.
Should FI have reduced IPD more gradually?
As I said on Friday, FI may have done better by gradually reducing IPD over time rather than clearing it away in one stroke. My original suggestion was to halve IPD which would have done the job without causing so much upset.
I could be persuaded that ripping the plaster off and removing IPD entirely was the right call – but it depends on what comes next. They may have wanted to free up the prize pool to ensure the new mechanic has enough firepower to be attractive.
If that new mechanic supports the now reinforced aim of returning to a less short term focused product and has good money behind it we may be sat here in a week or two thinking “Yeah, that all kind of hangs together”.
If FI had just halved it, we might have ended up with a weak IPD mechanic and a weak new mechanic – ending up again with a confused trader group and an over complex platform.
We only have half the story – so we can’t judge whether this was a good decision or not yet.
Is it all that bleak for “IPD players?”
It’s likely that no matter what strategy, we’ll all have at least a few players who will be worth less as a result of the IPD announcement. I know I do. Many will not currently have a sell price at all and we may fear being stuck with them. It may not be quite that bleak.
My theory is this. Big strikers at big teams who are usually in the CL/Europa who have previously been average or worse for performance but strong for IPD should eventually look relevant on FI again.
I’m talking about the Immobile’s. Lukaku’s. Icardi’s. Morata’s. Lautaro Martinez. I’m not particularly stressed about this sort of player. It would obviously be very strange for the product if such players had no relevance at all, and I think we will see changes to make that happen because FI need the product to look like it reflects reality.
These players aren’t terrible anyway. They can easily score 175+ with a couple of goals, even if they are poor for performance scoring in terms of overall play. FI is already a very goals centric platform.
Should we see a new mechanic which lowers the winning bar slightly (will discuss what that might be more below) then these players are likely to get over that marker.
And if they don’t, then I would fully expect any change to the scoring system (Summer?) to bring them back into the fold. If we did reach say July and these big name strikers at big name teams were irrelevant to FI then this would be a problem that obviously needed fixing.
So in these cases, I would not fear being stuck with them forever. At all.
Where we start running into problems is the middle ground. I’d get slightly more worried about the Andre Silva, or Belotti type. Both good strikers but at smaller clubs which makes it harder to bag braces and hatricks (though they can) and they will often lack CL/Europa league involvement.
Hope is not at all lost. Both are great players and could well get that transfer to a big club. But at this level of player we are starting to need some specific events to happen if we want to do well from them. Which they could well do. And they have time on their side so again, I wouldn’t be too stressed.
Where I would get stressed is with strikers at small teams who were very cheap and quietly scored goals yet had few other factors in their favour. Delort. Aspas. Muriel. Volland. Laborde. H. Diallo. Stindl.
With IPD gone the case for such players is smashed, and I can’t think of a major reason it would come back.
Many are hoping for a change that brings a very wide range of players back into contention again, including garbage speculation youth – but I think this fundamentally misses the point of exactly why IPD was swept away and I’ll discuss that more below.
I’m not expecting poor players that people wildly speculated on, IPD or not, to get much joy in the coming weeks.
Another category of player that this announcement puts stress on is the veteran players who benefited from IPD. Perhaps Benzema. Suarez. Vardy. They just have less time on the clock and by the time a positive change comes around that helps them it might look a bit too late.
But then we do have the CL/Europa coming up for such players and it may not be all over for them. Benzema in particular is class and he does at least have a contract into next season.
So overall, like I said in my live reaction post to the announcement – if you could dump players that are clearly negatively impacted straight away then this was obviously the best thing to do.
Yet, if we are “stuck” with them now, it is unlikely it will end up being quite as bad as it feels now especially for those big names.
When I’m crafting strategies – I’m generally thinking of two questions:
- how can I maximise profits in the months ahead?
- if everything goes wrong which players are most likely to ride out any major difficulties even if patience is required?
We can’t always predict crashes and roadblocks but we can make sure we are mostly holding good quality stuff that is likely to survive it.
It’s about controlling the things we can control. When you are really up against it, a good player who is relevant to week in week out football will often give you options that bench fodder or a 16 year old prospect just won’t.
What replaces IPD?
As things stand we have lost something, but don’t yet know what we get instead.
What I’m really looking for from this announcement is something logical – I want to see a clear direction that shows they know what they want the product to be.
There is no point asking traders what they want – they’ll just get different opinions depending on who is in the room. You reach a point as a company where you just have to decide who your audience is. And who it isn’t.
They’ve just knocked short termism on the head and committed to replacing it with something “healthier”.
Logically, this should be something that does not encourage fastest finger first rapid fire trading. We want to see players rising on merit, with incentives to hold for weeks, months, and even years if a trader so chooses.
We shouldn’t end up with a return to the days of “Buy 1,000 Neymar, sit back, open beer” strategies either. And I don’t think this will be the case.
There will always be reasons to trade. As Scouting readers will know, over the course of a month and certainly a season, the fortunes of a player can change rapidly.
Tactical changes. Coach changes. Transfers. Form. Injuries. Fixture calendars. Knockouts. Tournaments. There is no shortage of natural factors that will make reasonably active trading optimal and provide both liquidity and commissions to FI.
Around that, there will always be opportunity for short term trading too. Short term trading is not going away. It’s just going to be less dominant which is essential for a healthy market.
So, what have FI actually said?
“This change will allow us to focus these funds on more healthy market stimuli. One such focus will be the introduction of new trading incentives and opportunities, incorporating each position category, to go live before IPDs end. More details in the coming weeks.”
Let’s look at the credible options for a new mechanic/incentive, and also consider some kind of wildcard scenario where FI do something unexpected.
Strengthen Team of the Month
This feels quite likely. It’s an easy slam dunk win that would be popular, easy to explain and requires very little effort.
TOTM when first announced was quite weighty. But it was left behind when the rest of the dividends were doubled, which was always quite odd. Correcting this would be the first thing I’d reach for.
It supports the stated aim of healthier, more long term incentives. It makes a few more players relevant.
A common misconception I see around Team of the Month is that it benefits “boring” defensive midfielders who don’t score but pass a lot. A bit – but not really.
FI is still a very goals (and assist) centric platform. Our deep midfielder can pass all he wants but he’s still almost always getting beaten by the big consistent goalscorers who are also decent for performance baselines.
A strengthened Team of the Month very strongly and specifically benefits “Core” players who are good for performance. And more than anything it benefits players with a heavy CL and Europa schedule as the multiplier counts towards their scores.
Particularly in CL/Europa months, TOTM mainly benefits Core players with involvement in that competition and it is not even close.
Betting on this outcome is easy and low risk – it doesn’t involve doing anything we wouldn’t normally be doing if seeking high quality “Core” types of players. And if it doesn’t happen, no big deal.
A long time request from some, but not all, traders. I’ve always been in favour personally.
We’d see a 2nd or 3rd place payout on match days, obviously lower than the jackpot first place win but still enough to be meaningful.
Broadly, I think Adam Cole was right in his favouring of the “jackpot” model we have now. It’s quite hard to win on any given day but when you do you get a very substantial payout that you can celebrate.
What you don’t want is a situation where winning is kind of… “meh”. So I’d still like to see a weighting towards 1st place.
However. One frustration of the Match Day experience is that your player can do exceptionally well but just be pipped because they lose that matchwinning goal through no fault of their own. Or some random no name spoiler happens to have the game of his life and beat you.
That’s not enjoyable. It’s annoying. You can accept being beaten if a strong player just has a better game, but losing out totally for reasons that wouldn’t make sense to an average fan isn’t fun.
I think a small 2nd and 3rd place payout will soothe that feeling that the good performance was all for nothing – especially when combined with a beefier TOTM.
It will also reduce the perception that FI is too hard to win. It isn’t – not when picking a good player and considering his prospects over a few months or a season.
But on a match day in isolation it can certainly feel that way – and when you are new to the product you are excited and you will be more likely to stick around if you see an immediate result.
The overwhelming winners from tiered performance winners are, again, our Core players.
If a player is competitive for regular 1st place spots now, they will only benefit from being close but falling into 2nd or 3rd.
The other winners are the sort of middle ranking players who might be good enough to reliably hit say 175 to 225. Previously not great scores that can be easily beaten. They will now be in contention for some minor prizes which could add up.
This will include high baseliners like Rodri. And also lots of the previously struggling big goal scorers who have just suffered from IPD withdrawal. Immobile, Lukaku and the like.
This idea has gained traction recently. And it’s quite attractive.
A player would get an “Instant Win” payout for reaching a particular score say 175, 200, 225, 250, 275, 300 (maybe +1p each time they breach one of those numbers? You’d have to be FI to work out what is viable).
Again, a bit like tiered PB, it soothes that “just missed out” feeling. It gives potentially quite a wide group of players at least some value. Almost any dog can have his day when they get over 175.
And it rewards again the Core players most of all. (There is a theme here. Imagine the players who are most suitable for the FI scoring system benefiting the most. Just imagine).
It’s pretty simple. Easy to explain. Healthy for the market in terms of what incentives it provides. Really not much to dislike about it and it’s something I’d welcome.
Always a possibility – what if FI do something that we haven’t thought of, or that just looks weird?
My biggest fear of the announcement is that FI do something that makes me think they don’t get the reasons this market has struggled.
Removing IPD is a sign they do get it, and this is why this was my number one fix when I wrote my mini-thesis on how to repair the market.
If they follow up with something silly that doesn’t logically follow, like something that makes thousands of players viable again, I’ll wonder whether they blundered upon the IPD fix rather than really understood why it was needed.
I don’t think that is the case though. I think they have grasped it. I’m just worrying out loud.
Under the Matching Engine, the liquidity pool is not big enough to support thousands of players and it’s just a fact. Certainly for the next year or two as people adjust to Order Books, we need the market to be narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow.
If too many players are viable – that is a major factor in destroying liquidity. I think FI get this and this will be a key reason they removed IPD which gives value to any mug who can score a goal or assist.
So I really hope the next step we see is logically consistent with that need. If it’s not, that is when you will see a stressed FIT on announcement day.
I’ve seen some wild ideas on what an alternative mechanic might look like. Perhaps a running total of goals in the month – a bit like TOTM but for goals and assists only. This sounds pretty garbage but stranger things have happened.
I actually think speculating outside of the above 3 main options is a bit of a waste of time because it won’t be something we can logically predict.
It’s a bit like previous announcements and those waves of people speculating on Goalkeepers being relevant every time there was a rule change. If I recall, for 3-4 announcements, the trader punting on that unlikely outcome got burned badly over the years.
Eventually, they got lucky and FI did (totally from nowhere!) decide to add goalkeepers (I miss the days when this was our biggest concern).
But is that mentality good trading overall? I’d say not. It’s just gambling and like gambling you’ll win some and lose some. And mainly, you’ll lose.
We might not want to bet on it, but do want to be prepared for that wildcard option – and as I’ll come on to now – this is where some defensive strategy is required.
Trading Strategy Ahead of the Announcement
For all the care we need to consider this with and all the details we need to understand as above – I actually think what to do about this one is really quite simple.
It’s Core Players.
High performing, players with time on their side in their career and involvement with as many of the major coming competitions as possible. Being 28-32 can be totally fine if they have a long contract and lots of positive factors. I give a full definition in the reference Key Strategy (available via the Dashboard).
Many readers of my strategy and Scouting will have at least a good chunk of these in their portfolios already. At least if they listen to me at all and aren’t just here for the fabulously entertaining reading.
So with any spare cash we want to use, I would double down on this area and not adopt a “wait and see” approach.
Because Core players are already undervalued in the vast majority of cases, even under existing win mechanics.
Not to put too fine a point on it – but even if Mike Bohan does a Live podcast in which he declares that he isn’t providing any new win mechanics at all and then gives us all the finger – Core players will still be worth something and be the best thing to be holding.
Then we look at the 3 most credible options for new mechanics and incentives. Team of the Month. Tiered performance. Winning threshhold scores. All benefit Core players because they all make use of the existing scoring system.
In the event of a Wildcard option – the chances are it will provide at least some kind of mild benefit to good Core players. Most of them score goals and assist. And have strong contributions to the game in general. Whatever metric you want to use, lots of Core players will come out well.
And if FI do something strange and unwelcome that benefits a seemingly random group of players we hadn’t thought of – it’s not great – but we still hold decent players that we know have intrinsic value already.
Being in this position feels strong to me. We’d be very likely to benefit from the most credible announcements on the table. But we also find it very hard to lose this way too unless FI decide to flip the entire foundation of the product on it’s head. And they only just on Friday recommitted to the original vision.
There is also hope for players who look down now, such as those big club strikers who were previously popular as IPD players as I have mentioned above.
This is good if we are holding such borderline players as discussed – we may feel stuck with them now but they may come back into contention if that winning bar is lowered.
But I do not see a need to chase the mid or lower tier options specifically in hope they might make it.
Prices for players we a very confident will make it are low enough already. And popular players are always likely to rise first if there is a wave of optimism.
There will be lots of anticipation for what FI come up with and I’m excited to see it. It seems to me that there are some obvious slam dunk wins on the table for both FI and traders here.
New CEO Bohan came in hard with a savage tackle on Friday. It was brutal but effective. He’s robbed the ball from the defender, the keeper is out of position and he’s got an open goal to aim at. Can the big lad finish?
If he scores the winning goal, that’s all anyone will talk about in 6 months time and the questionable foul will be forgotten.
We watch with interest.
If I have to pick an outcome and I suppose I do or why am I even here, I’d suspect what we might see is Team of the Month strengthened plus ONE of the other two choices, either tiered performance OR threshhold scoring.
If we only get 1 of the 3, it may look a little cheap and we may see a negative reaction.
With Team of the Month plus one of the other two I’d be satisfied. Assuming of course the dividends are meaningful and not paltry.
I mildly favour tiered performance but would be fine with threshhold scoring too.
If it came with all 3 of these above changes… it probably starts to confuse things again and gives FI too many win mechanics and it becomes too hard to explain (bad enough already). And we’d also split that prize pool 3 ways, lowering the dividends for each event.
So that’s my prediction, Team of the Month plus one.
But as per the Strategy section above – my key point for readers to take away is that we don’t need to gamble on the outcome.
We can set ourselves up in a strong position where we are likely to profit but – just as importantly – we are also unlikely to blow ourselves up.