The Top 10 Tips for Starting a Successful Fantasy Football League
So you’re tired of missing out on the water cooler talk on Monday mornings and finally decided to start a fantasy football league. It’s not as difficult as it may sound, but it takes a lot of organization and there will be some bumps in the road. With these tips you’ll set yourself up for a league that will reward you and your friends for years to come.
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With the NFL season kicking off Thursday, September 9, if you want to start a league you're running out of time. It will take a while to gather at least eight owners who will see the season through, organize those people to be in the same place at the same time for draft during vacation season, and make sure that you have the right makeup of owners. Use these tips to make sure things go smoothly.
10. Go Big with Entrance Fees
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Most fantasy leagues that die, do so in the first couple years. Setting the ante high out of the gate may make it a little more difficult to get owners to join, but when there’s something big on the line it will make them fight tooth and nail until the end. When there’s nothing to really play for, cellar dwellers will stop starting their teams, which completely screws your league’s integrity. Remember, only one person walks away with the bulk of the prize, but if floating the fantasy bill was a struggle for some owners, they’ll come back the next season hungry for some payback. After a few years, most owners will have moved up in their careers and the ante won’t be as prohibitive, but by then you’ve built league camaraderie and the history and fun will be enough to keep everyone coming back.
9. Charge for Free Agents
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Sure, charging for player pickups will build the total prize and increase incentive, but it honestly serves a far more important role. As the season starts you’ll find that some owners are complete maniacs. They’ll sit by the TV on Sundays and try to pick up every slot receiver that has five catches and a touchdown before anyone else has a chance to even consider him. If you put a healthy fee in place for every free agent they’ll think a lot harder about having a hair trigger. On the flip side, there will be just as many owners with families or other responsibilities that will be more than happy to start their team before kickoff and then check scores on Monday morning. You have to make sure that the league is fun for both types. So allow pickups at any time (screw the waiver system), and charge for them.
8. Choose Owners Wisely
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This is incredibly important. You may know someone for a long time, but you don’t really know them until a big prize is on the line and there’s a dispute. Follow your hunches on people. If you know a guy who flies off the handle every time he has a few drinks, do not let him in the league. Try to make sure you know every single owner on a personal level. Do not listen to people in your league who know some “awesome dude” that no one else in the league has spent time with. If he has no vested interest in playing fair and doesn’t have to interact with other players on a personal level it can get ugly. If you’re in a pinch, allow someone in the league who’s just learning in favor of a ringer you don’t know. They’ll learn quickly and it’s extremely hard to get someone out of your league once they’re in, and you’ll be stuck with the jerk.
7. Pick a Commissioner and Stick with Him
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Once your league is a couple years in, people will start to get jealous of the commissioner. Alpha personalities will want to take charge, and as the league founder you’ll want to keep people happy and may relent. Don’t do it. This opens up the door for all kinds of issues. Being the commissioner is tough. You’re in the league and you want to win, but at the same time, you have to make everyone feel like things are fair. Developing this trust takes time. If you hand the reigns over to someone else after a couple years the continuity is broken and so is the trust. Suddenly there will be disputes over everything, people will start bickering, and the league will fall apart.
6. Do Not Use League Voting to Settle Disputes
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Democracy may sound like a good idea. It worked for America, right? There’s a big difference between millions of people voting for something and 10 fantasy league owners who have hidden agendas. People want to win at all costs—especially when there’s a decent-sized pot on the line. They will not care about the overall integrity of the league and how decisions will affect it years on down the road. They will bend the rules however they can to get an advantage and eek out a win. When disputes arise, give everyone a chance to make their voice heard through an email string or a message board post on your league site. Take everything in consideration and then rule. Make sure you establish this upfront so that no one will complain when the time comes (and it will).