David Moyes’s continued crackdown on leaks coming out of West Ham United could be under threat.
West Ham’s fortunes have been completely transformed by Moyes this season.
The Hammers are enjoying their best campaign for 35 years and are in the mix for a European spot.
It is no coincidence that part of their success has been the club maintaining a lower profile.
Moyes launched crackdown on West Ham leaks
And that includes the manager clamping right down on leaks coming out of the club regarding team news, injuries and transfers.
West Ham have been like a circus in recent years, dominating the headlines with the club’s dirty linen being aired in public.
Things have been noticeably different since Moyes returned for a second spell, though.
He has – for the most part – got a lid on the leaks and prides himself on keeping team selection and team news a closely guarded secret.
But that could now be under threat according to a new report from Sky Sports.
That’s because Premier League clubs and their managers are growing increasingly concerned over leaks from automated fantasy football ‘bots’.
Hammers boss’s closely guarded team selection and injury news could be under threat by Fantasy League ‘bots’
The hugely popular game is essentially being hijacked by computer ‘bot’s to glean team news from clubs ahead of matches.
The issue has come to a head after Jack Grealish’s absence from the Aston Villa side to face Leicester at the weekend through injury.
Grealish’s injury was kept under wraps by Villa boss Dean Smith. So much so that Sky Sports ran an elaborate feature pitting Grealish against Foxes star James Maddison just hours before kick-off.
But Sky Sports claims many fantasy football players had suspected he wouldn’t play, thanks to news on Friday that three Villa players and two members of staff had transferred Grealish out of their Fantasy Premier League teams.
And Sky Sports claims automated software or ‘bots’, which track the fantasy football teams of Premier League players and staff, are at the centre of growing concerns over team news leaks.
“One Twitter account, believed to be based in Norway, generates an automated tweet once a player or staff member changes a player at their own club. In just over three weeks, the account has highlighted more than 60 ‘transfers’ in and out of Fantasy Premier League teams belonging to players and staff at more than half of top-flight clubs,” Sky Sports reports.
Antonio issue takes on new significance for West Ham for run-in
According to online forums and social media, West Ham striker Michail Antonio was one such player named by the account as he missed the game against Sheffield United.
Given the persistent nature of Antonio’s injuries and the very different way West Ham have to set up without him, it is vital Moyes keeps that info out of opposition hands prior to matches.
So the issue will be a huge concern for Moyes, particularly with so much at stake for West Ham in the season run-in.
“Some pre-match team information has always been available online,” Sky Sports reports.
“However, the monitoring of so many Fantasy Premier League accounts belonging to club staff, has led to several clubs now discussing how best to make sure no clues are inadvertently offered up to their opposition hours and, in many cases, days before kick-off.
“Premier League players and staff are not breaking any league rules or regulations when playing FPL, which is enjoyed by more than seven million players worldwide.
“The problem could continue to grow as more accounts belonging to players and staff are identified and tracked.”
Sky Sports suggests one potentially unpopular solution could be for West Ham and their fellow Prem clubs to ask players and staff not to pick players from their club.
Therefore it would not be obvious if someone like Declan Rice – for example – suddenly removed Antonio from his Fantasy team in the build-up to a crucial game for West Ham.
It will be interesting to see how this develops. And Moyes will undoubtedly be keeping a close watch.
Given his hardline approach it would surprise nobody if the Scot simply banned all first team squad members from making public or obvious their involvement in the game.