How To Manage a Fantasy Football League

How To Be a Fantasy Football League Commissioner

If you’ve never been a fantasy football league commissioner before, you either think it looks simple or you think it looks really complicated. The bad news is, it’s not as simple as it looks; the good news is, it’s not as complicated as it looks, either. That is, if you know your rules, take care of league business in a timely fashion and keep a firm hand on league decisions, being a fantasy football commissioner should usually go pretty smoothly.

On the other hand, if you don’t do any of the things I mentioned, life can get awfully complicated. Let’s look at the tips for how to manage a fantasy football league.

Know the Rules of Your Fantasy Football League

Make sure you understand all the rules of the fantasy football league. This is really important if you have one or more “rules lawyers” in the league, who either complain about how the rules are being enforced or who try to find and exploit loopholes in the rules. Try to understand rules. At the same time, try to understand why rules were put in place. That way, when a question comes up, you have an honest answer ready immediately. And when your league encounters some gray area or loophole, you can make decisions based on “the spirit of the rules”.

Take Care of Fantasy Football League Business

When you are expected to do something, do it. For example, one of my leagues has a commissioner who likes to be commissioner, but who loses interest in conducting league business if his team is no longer realistically in the playoff chase. When it’s time for the weekly free agency to be transacted, he’ll often take an extra 2-3 days to get around to it – if his team isn’t directly affected. I’ve even seen teams ask for him to hit the button and make the transactions happen, and he either make bizarre excuses or get defensive. That’s being a bad commissioner and making life complicated for yourself.

If you sleep at your home at night, there’s no reason you can’t spend the half-minute it takes to conduct league business.

If you’re the commissioner of a league where free agency or player additions to the roster are going to be a problem, you might consider first-come, first-served free agency or some other form of automation. You also might allow league owners to add players to their own roster. If you choose to have league transactions go through the commissioners office, perform these transactions when you promised you would perform them. When you’re going to be out of town, let your league know this beforehand and make arrangements for someone else to take care of league transactions.

Commissioners who don’t take care of league business when they should lose the support of the league members, so when you need their support on whatever issue comes to the surface, you may not have it. That’s how life can get complicated for a fantasy football commissioner.

Keep a Firm Hand on Decisions

When I write “firm hand”, I’m not telling you to rule your league like a dictator. That means you should have a firm grasp of the decisions being made and you make your decisions with confidence. A “firm grasp” means you should talk to league owners not directly affected by league decisions, learning about their opinion and considering whether they have advice for you, and whether you have their support. A good fantasy football commissioner maintains support from the reasonable members of his league.

Sometimes, though, a league commissioner will face a hostile reaction to a decision. If you know you’re decision is in the best interest of the league, stick to your guns. Discuss with your league owners the implications of your decisions. Show that you’ll listen to their arguments, but don’t give the impression you’ll change your mind due to “lobbying”.

In other words, be firm, but fair. Don’t take sides. Apply the rules.

Don’t Rewrite the Rules In-Season

One thing you never do is rewrite the rules in the middle of the season. Don’t change a rule to please some angry owner. All that does is invite that owner to complain about other rules that irritate them, hoping to get them changed to their advantage. Also, it offends most of the other owners in the league, because they were playing by the rules everyone agreed on at the beginning of the season, then you pulled the rug out from under them.

Changing the rules during the season is always to one team’s advantage and to another team’s disadvantage (or divided the league between advantage and disadvantage), and therefore is inherently corrupt. Everyone agreed to the rules before the season started, so lobbying to change them once you know how they’ll affect your team is motivated by selfishness.

Vetoing Fantasy Football Trades

Probably the most contentious part of fantasy football are fantasy football trades. Teams making a trade can almost always justify why a trade is fair, while competitors are going to look at their rivals’ trades with their own playoff hopes in mind. In either case, players let their own hopes and expectations get in the way of rational decision-making. That’s where the fantasy league commissioner has to be the rational one.

Before you veto a trade, try to understand the expectations of your league’s owners.

If league owners only want you to make sure both teams are trying to make their team better, you have to look at a trade and see if both teams have some reasonable expectation of making their team better. Look at both team’s weaknesses and see if those teams are addressing weaknesses. See what both team’s starting lineups will look like with the new players added in. If you can see the logic behind the trade, allow the trade. If there is no seeming logic, reject the trade.

If league owners want the commissioner to keep league balance, then your job becomes even murkier. That is, you have to figure out if a trade is so one-sided that it ruins the competitive balance of the league by allowing the trade to happen. “Competitive balance” is always iffy, because any team can beat any other team in a league. But if two buddies make a buddy-buddy trade and one of the teams is out of the playoff picture, you’re probably justified in one of these leagues to veto the trade.

Don’t Micromanage Your Fantasy Football League

Being a league commissioner is somewhat like being a referee or umpire: the less people notice you, the better of a job you’re probably doing. Don’t try to throw yourself in the middle of every fight or conflict. Don’t weigh in with your opinion on every single dispute. Americans tend to have a problem with authority – even the minor authority of a league commissioner.

So if you give the appearance that you’re flaunting your authority as commissioner, players are going to resent you. If several of your league owners resent you, they’ll turn on you the first time trouble rears its head.

Managing a Fantasy Football League

There’s no way to cover every scenario in a fantasy football management how-to guide. But if you follow the advice above and follow the spirit of the advice in your fantasy football management decisions, you’ll know how to manage a fantasy football league and quickly figure out how to be a fantasy football commissioner.

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