The game traces its origins back to 1962. Bill “Wink” Winkenbach, then a minority investor in the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, is credited with inventing the concept for fantasy football alongside public relations executive Bill Tunnell and sportswriter Gordon "Scotty" Stirling. The trio came up with the idea during a Raiders road trip while staying at a New York City hotel, according to NFL.com.
“I challenge anybody to come up with a single element in the history of football that has changed and progressed the game more than fantasy football has,” Paul Charchian, president of the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, told Sports Business Journal last fall. “It has been a seismic shift in how the game is consumed and the level of interest. This created a whole new level of fandom that was never on the map before.”
The inaugural fantasy football draft for the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL) took place prior to the 1963 NFL season. Raiders star George Blanda was the first player ever selected on a fantasy football team.
The concept of fantasy football went public in 1969, when Andy Mousalimas, a bar owner and original GOPPPL member, launched a public league for customers at his Kings X Sports Bar in Oakland, California. Mousalimas is considered a major figure in fantasy football’s early growth. Mousalimas died in May 2020 at age 95.
The fantasy sports industry attracted more than 59 million players as of 2017, according to the FSGA. Of that total, 80 percent participated in fantasy football.