Modern fantasy football can be traced back to the late Wilfred "Bill" Winkenbach, an Oakland area businessman and a limited partner in the Oakland Raiders. In a New York hotel room during a 1962 Raiders eastern cross-country trip, Winkenbach, along with Raiders Public Relations man Bill Tunnel and Tribune reporter Scotty Starling, developed a system of organization and a rulebook, which would eventually be the basis of modern fantasy football
The inaugural league was called the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League), and the first draft took place in the rumpus room of Winkenbach's home in Oakland, California in August 1963. The league consisted of eight members, made up of administrative affiliates of the AFL, pro football journalists, or someone who had purchased or sold 10 season tickets for the Raiders' 1963 season. Each roster consisted of the following in the GOPPPL: two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, four offensive ends, two kick/punt returners, two field goal kickers, two defensive backs/linebackers and two defensive linemen. The current GOPPPL roster now includes: two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, six wide receivers/tight ends, two kickers, two defensive backs, one return team, and a bonus pick for any position. As of 2012, the GOPPPL will celebrate its 50th season and still maintains its TD-only scoring heritage.
In 1969, Andy Mousalimas, an original creator of GOPPPL and participant in the inaugural draft, brought the game to his sports bar, the King's X in Oakland, California where he added another couple leagues. When the patrons of other Oakland and San Francisco bars visited for trivia contests they soon learned of the game and passed the word about it. Due to the time consuming nature of the game's scoring it was difficult to pick up and spread slowly across the country.
Another early fantasy football league is "The league formerly known as Maria's". This league was founded in Spokane, Washington on September 2, 1981, at the now defunct Maria's pizza parlor. Originally, Maria's Fantasy Football League had eight franchises drafting from a single player pool. Today, the league boasts twenty-four franchises divided into two conferences each drafting from a separate player pool. The playoff system mirrors the NFL playoffs with weekly live auction redrafts as the player pool diminishes culminating in a Super Bowl between the two conference champions. Like other pre-information age leagues, Maria's was founded as a TD only league to simplify manual scoring. Since, the rules have been modified by adding "bonus points" for milestone yardage achievements - but otherwise Maria's franchise owners have opted to maintain the spirit of Maria's TD-only history.
In 1988, the G-League was formed by 8 player who drafted from the control room of GTech, an information technology company who serviced the lottery terminals for New Jersey Lottery in Trenton, NJ. The league was a TD-only scoring and used USA-Today as the source for all their data. Some of the players continue to participate with the league renamed as Brick City Football League, launching their first live draft in 1994 in the Newark NJ conference room of York Hunter, a construction management company. The Brick City League is still active today, 24 years later, with players in NY, NJ, FL, and Turkey.
Digital Trends Magazine, Pro Sports Daily,and others note that it wasn't until 1989 when telecommunications and ultimately internet made tracking players easier when leagues grew to the point that games could be followed from almost any location, then the idea really caught on. There were other factors as well, including the push by Robert Barbiere and Brad Wendkos of Phoneworks, who helped popularize the fantasy idea in 1989 with what they called the "Pigskin playoff", an open fantasy football league that was picked up by several major newspapers and participated in by over 100,000 players nationally. Trading and other game interactions took place via DTMF (touchtone) phone technologies.
For years, the popularity of fantasy football grew slowly. In 1997, CBS launched the beta version of the first publicly available free fantasy football website. The game immediately became widely popular. Within three years, all major sports media websites launched competing fantasy football hosting websites. The NFL released their own official game in 2010, NFL.com Fantasy Football, further driving industry growth. Fantasy football is now the single most important marketing tool for the NFL. Today, it is estimated over 19 million people compete in public and private leagues online nationally