Commissioner Basics - Constitution Creation
By Will Grant
July 23rd, 2012

Having a written constitution is a critical piece to running a successful fantasy football league, especially any league where owners are putting up their own money. While this probably seems like overkill to some people, you can be assured that if you play in a league long enough, something always comes up that tests the rules of the league as a whole. A well written constitution can save you life in combat, or at least provide objective guidance toward an overall resolution. This article will go over much of the process, and provide suggestions on how to build your league constitution as painlessly as possible.

Getting Started

Some folks will cringe at having to write up the league rules, while others might view it as an opportunity to create a 42-page treatise detailing out every possible situation. While detail is important, it's also important to focus more on the overall intent and less on the specific language. Try not to spend too much time finding the exact wording for every paragraph. Think hard about what you are trying to say and then just say it. This document won't be passed out in a court of law, and it won't be proof-read by your 8th-grade English teacher.

Circulation is important. While you don't need to have people sign a waiver, it's important that everyone reads the constitution and has easy access to it. If you can, circulate a copy of it before draft night and encourage people to have read it before things start. If there are any changes from year to year, create a quick summary sheet and reference the appropriate articles that have changed. This way guys can read the summary, and if they want the full details, they can open up the constitution. If your league software has a section for you to cut and past information, consider posting this information there as well. Anything that makes it easy for folks to read and see the rules is a good thing.

Numbered sections and sub-sections are a good idea and will make it easy to find information if there is a question. There is no magic formula to doing this, but more sections are usually better. In the sample below, we'll highlight some key main sections and add in a basic numbering structure to make finding things easy. Avoid page or year references if possible as those can change as rules are added or dropped from year to year. A table of contents can also help if your constitution is long.

Below you will find a sample constitution with comments on every section. The numbering and sections are only a suggestion. Feel free to change or modify any of this to fit your own league.

[1.0 League Overview]

Welcome to GFFL, the Generic Fantasy Football League. This is a 12-team league that was formed in 2012 by a group of owners who all live in South Park, Colorado. This league is considered a money league, and all owners are expected to pay their league fee before the draft begins. This league is designed to be a competition between owners, but it not a cut-throat league where anything goes. The rules described below are designed to act a a guideline for overall league play, and any disputes will be handled by the executive committee of the league. Please remember that the overall goal of this league is to have fun and enjoy the game of football. If you have any question or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask.

Comments: Simple and to the point. It lets folks know what the league is all about, and where you got your start. If you have a unique name to your league or your divisions, you should detail that out here as well. New owners coming into the league may not understand all of the references and comments that people make and a good league overview is a nice 'welcome to the league'.

[1.1 Executive Committee]

The executive committee for GFFL for 2012 consists of:

  • Commissioner Stan Marsh (123) 456-7890 [home] (123) 456-7890 [cell] stanmarsh@stanmarsh.com
  • Co-Commissioner Kyle Broflovski (123) 456-7890 [home] (123) 456-7890 [cell] kylebroflovski@kylebroflovski.com
  • Co-Commissioner Eric Cartman (123) 456-7890 [home] (123) 456-7890 [cell] ericcartman@ericcartman.com
  • The Executive Committee will be responsible for resolving all disputes that are not expressly covered by this constitution. If a committee member is involved in the dispute, that member will excuse themselves from the decision process. While all owners are encouraged to submit suggestions to the committee, the committee's decision on all matters is final.

    Comments: Your constitution won't cover everything. There are too many variables and something always comes up. Get two owners from the league to help you with these decisions unless you want to go it alone. List as many forms of communication as possible, including home and work phone numbers if possible. While the committee has power, do not let it go to your heads. Remember the goal is to have fun. Depending on your preference, co-commissioners do not need to be elected, and can change from year to year.

    [1.2 Living Constitution]

    It is important to note that this is a living, breathing constitution that will change and evolve over the lifetime of this league. Changes will happen between seasons as often as possible and will be effective from that point moving forward. If you have suggestions for changes, please submit them to one of the executive committee members.

    Comments: We talk about how to implement league changes in the Changing Things Up section of the Commissioner Series. See those articles for more details. The key here is to let folks know that this document is not inclusive and may change from year to year.

    [2.0 League Financing]

    The league fee for GFFL will be charged to each team owner and committee member, payable to the commissioner on or before the night of the draft. If a team owner does not have the appropriate entry fee, the executive committee may make other arrangements for payment before the season starts at their discretion.

    [2.1 League Fee]

    The GFFL league fee for the 2012 season will be $68.50 from each owner. This fee consists of $50 entry fee plus $18.50 from each owner to cover the cost of the league scoring software and room rental for draft night. This fee is due on or before the draft. Also, all trades and waiver wire transactions will cost each owner an additional $5.00 per transaction, due once the playoffs are complete. Owners who do not pay their transaction fee will have their balance deducted from any prize money that they win and will be forced to pay any outstanding balance before the start of the following season or they will not be invited back.

    Comments: You are strongly encouraged to make sure everyone pays their entry fee before the night of the draft. If you have a league software expense, consider including that on top of the league fee as described above, or detail out that each owner will pay a portion of the cost before any prize money is given. NEVER put up the money yourself, and if owners do not pay, make sure to deduce their portion from the prize money accordingly.

    [2.2 Prize Money]

    League prize money will be paid out within seven days of the completion of the GFFL Super Bowl. Money will be held in a bank account owned by all three members of the executive committee and will be paid out in the following manner:

  • League Champion receives $500 + 75% of all transaction fees collected
  • League Runner-Up received $200 + 20% of all transaction fees collected
  • League Scoring Champion receives $50 + 5% of all transaction fees collected
  • Comments: This will obviously be based on your league payout system. It's important to list out all payouts. An owner should be able to add up all the fees from section 2.1 and see all of the payout in section 2.2. If you collect a fee for running your league, list it as part of the prize money as well. Owners should have one place to go to see who is paid what at the end of the season. If you league goes not collect fees or pay prize money, you can skip section 2.

    [3.0 League Setup and Competition]

    The GFFL will consist of 12 different teams, broken into two conferences of six teams each. Each conference will be broken into two divisions of three teams each. The schedule will be randomly generated, with each team playing every other team at least once in head-to-head match-up. Teams will also play their division opponents an additional time for a 13-game regular season.

    Comments: Obviously this is determined by how your league is broken out and your schedule. If your playoff system is based on division winners, you should have at least two head-to-head games against everyone in your division to give everyone a fair chance.

    [3.1 Division Rankings]

    Teams will be ranked within each division based on the following criteria:

    1. Overall Winning Percentage
    2. Division Winning Percentage
    3. Head-to-head Winning Percentage
    4. Total Points Scored by the Starters - Year to Date
    5. Total Points Scored by Head-to-head Opponents - Year to Date

    Comments: Use winning percentage as the benchmark. If you use total wins, a tie can throw off the ranking. Again, you can adjust this to match your league rules.

    [3.2 Playoffs]

    After the completion of the regular season, three teams from each conference will make the playoffs. All division winners will be awarded a playoff spot and the highest ranking non-division winner from each conference will be awarded a wildcard spot. In Week 14, each conference wildcard team will play the lower ranking division winner, and the higher division ranking winner will get a bye. The winners from Week 14 will play the higher division ranking winner for the conference championship in Week 15. The winner of each conference championship will play each other in the GFFL Super Bowl during Week 16 of the NFL.

    Comments: It is never a good idea to have your Super Bowl in Week 17 because NFL teams may sit their star players. Adjust your playoff schedule based on what works best for your league. Conference runner-ups can also play during the Super Bowl if you want to award a prize for third place.

    You can also work out a playoff bracket for the non-playoff teams to keep everyone interested in every game. See this article for more ideas on how to keep everyone interested.

    [4.0 Rosters and Lineups]

    Rosters in GFFL consist of 22 active players from any NFL team. There are no position limits, and owners are free to have as many players from any position as they like. Only players from the active roster may be used as part of a team's starting lineup.

    Comments: In keeper or dynasty leagues, you may also want to add a section about injured reserve or taxi squad where owners may designate players who are not active, but still available for protection for next season.

    [4.1 The Draft]

    The commissioner will designate a draft night each season. Owners are expected to attend the draft in person, and must have all league fees paid before the draft. The draft order will be determined by a random draw. Owners will pick numbers (No. 1 through No. 12) out of a hat, and the number will correspond with their draft position in the first round. The draft will be a serpentine order, where the person with the first pick in Round 1 will have the last pick in Round 2 and the first pick in Round 3. When it is the owner's turn to draft, they will have two minutes to make their pick. The commissioner will designate a timekeeper and when the timer expires, the next owner may make their selection. The skipped owner will then have another 30 seconds to make their pick, or the next owner will be on the clock.

    Comments: This section should be a little more detailed than previous sections. The draft is the single most important night of the season and if you penalize people or have a draft timer, it should be clearly spelled out here. If you have an internet league where the draft is a over several days, you need to be specific about what will happen if an owner takes too long to pick. Give an example, if necessary, but owners need to know exactly how the draft will be run. Owners do some crazy things at times, and one rogue owner can derail the entire draft.

    [4.2 Free Agency]

    Free Agency will be conducted on a first come, first served basis. Owners may add or drop up to four players from their active rosters each week, starting on Tuesday evening at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Each time an owner adds or drops a player, their team will be assessed a $5.00 transaction fee. This will be distributed at the end of the season as detailed in the Prize Money section of this constitution. For accounting purposes, the fee will be charged each time a team drops a player. If an owner drops a player one week, then adds a player the next, they will only be charged one transaction fee. If they drop a player but do not add a replacement, they will still be charged a transaction fee.

    Comments: Modify this section as needed for your league.

    [4.3 Trades]

    Trading is allowed and encouraged in GFFL, and may be conducted between any owner. Trades may include multiple players from any position, as well as draft picks. Trades must include the same number of players or draft picks from each side to avoid any roster limit conflicts. Each owner will be charged a $5.00 for a trade ($10 total) and it will be added to the transaction pool for distribution as described in the prize money section. Owners may not make trades during any given week once the first NFL game has been played. Owners are free to trade once the final NFL game of the week is complete. No trades will be allowed after Week 12 of the fantasy football season.

    Comments: You can modify this section as needed if you want to allow unbalanced trades or trades after an NFL game is played. If you allow unbalanced trades (two players for one player), you'll need to include a provision to prevent people from exceeding the roster limit. You should always have a trade deadline to avoid roster stuffing at the end of the season.

    [4.3.1 Trade Veto]

    The executive committee reserves the right to reverse any trade that they deem inconsistent with league competition and fair-play standards. This veto will only be invoked in extreme cases where it is obvious that one owner is trying to give another owner an unfair advantage. The owners in question may offer reasons why the trade should be allowed, but the decision of the executive committee is final once it has been rendered. If the trade involves a committee member, they may offer reasons for the trade to be allowed will not have a say in the final committee decision.

    Comments: This rule is tricky, but needs to be in place, especially in money leagues. Commissioners need a way to overrule a trade that is clearly designed to give someone an advantage to avoid collusion. However, it should not be used to protect an owner from a bad decision. DO NOT allow league owners to vote on if a trade can be revoked or not. This will cause exponentially more harm than good. There is a reason the executive committee is in place, and they should have the power and responsibility to make this decision. This rule needs to be in place but should almost never be used.

    [4.4 Starting Lineups]

    Starting lineups in GFFL will consist as follows:

  • 1 QB
  • 2 RBs
  • 2 WRs
  • 1 TE
  • 1 Flex (RB, WR, or TE)
  • 1 PK
  • 1 Defense / Special Teams
  • Owners must submit their starting lineup each week, even if the lineup does not change from the previous week. Players may be added or removed from the starting lineup up until the start of the first NFL game. On weeks where the NFL has a Thursday game, owners may make changes to their lineups up to the start of the second NFL game, but may not change a player that has already played. For example, If you started your quarterback on Thursday night and he has a bad game, you cannot switch him out for a quarterback who has not played. Also, if you did not start a wide receiver who played on Thursday night and he scored three touchdowns, you cannot add him to your lineup on Friday. Once the Thursday game begins, players from that game may not be started or benched.

    Comments: You may want to lock lineups after the Thursday game or allow substitutions mid-day on Sunday as well. Examples work best when trying to implement more complex lineup rules. The most important thing to stress is that owners should not be allowed to do anything with players that have already played in an NFL game.

    [4.4.1 Position Designations]

    From time to time, the NFL may change their designation of a particular player from one position to another or a player may line up in multiple positions throughout the game. For example, a wide receiver may be switched to a tight end and vice versa. For the purposes of GFFL, a player may have only one official designation; any disputed designations will be resolved by the executive committee, using the official distinctions on NFL.com as a guide. Players may only start and score points based on their GFFL distinction. See the League Scoring section for more details.

    Comments: Players move around and sometimes even switch from offense to defense. You need a provision like this, especially in IDP leagues to avoid the "Can I start my quarterback as a running back since he runs more than he throws?" or "Can I start my linebacker as a running back because he comes in to block in goal line situations?" If you specify that a player may only have one league distinction, then they can only score points based on that distinction and you avoid any scoring madness from week to week. See below for more details.

    [4.5 Bye-week Penalties]

    Any owner who starts a player that is on a bye week, regardless of intention, the owner will be fined a $5.00 transaction fee and be forced to drop that player from their active roster. The penalty will be added to the transaction pot and distributed with that money at the end of the season. The player will become a free agent and will be eligible to be added to any roster, including the original owner, during the normal free agent policy. It is each owner's responsibility to submit a valid lineup each week and no exceptions will be made.

    Comments: You can add or remove this clause, depending on how you want to run your league. If some other penalty is appropriate or the fine is charged in a different way, spell it out in this section. You may also penalize an owner if they start a player who is officially listed as "Out" on the NFL injury report or a player that has been placed on injured reserve. A clause like this will keep owners engaged from week to week. With a clause like this, you can expect that owners will make sure they will log in each week to submit their lineup.

    [4.6 Active Ownership Requirements]

    Each owner is expected to actively manager their team each week, even if they are eliminated from any playoff consideration. Owners must submit a lineup each week, or be fined a $5.00 transaction fee, even if their lineup is the same as the previous week. Owners who do not submit a lineup by the start of the first Sunday NFL game will carry-over the previous week's lineup and will not be allowed to change it. Any additional penalties for starting a bye-week or injured player will also be assessed to a lineup that have been carried over. If an owner does not submit a lineup for two consecutive weeks, the executive committee will have the right to assume control of the team and manage it for the rest of the season. A committee run team will be exempt from any transaction fees, but the team may not make any trades and is only allowed to add or drop players if the team cannot field a legal starting lineup due to injury or bye weeks. Any prize money won by a committee-run team will be distributed evenly to the other active owners in the league.

    Comments: Your constitution needs to contain a provision that allows the commissioner or a committee to take over an inactive owner's team. Things happen over the course of a fantasy season. In some cases, owners move, are hospitalized or simply drop out of the league completely. Your constitution should provide a method for someone else to step in and take over to avoid the imbalance of an unmanaged team giving owners an easy win late in the season.

    [4.7 Anti-Tanking Provision]

    GFFL is a competitive league, created for the league owners to have fun playing fantasy football. While the competition may be fierce, this is not considered a cut-throat league. In the spirit of competition and league fairness, owners are not allowed to intentionally create a legal starting lineup that gives the opposing team a clear advantage. The executive committee reserves the right to step in and adjust the starting lineup of a team that is clearly trying to intentionally lose a game. Owners will be assessed a $5.00 transaction penalty that will be included in the free agent / trade transaction prize money distributed at the end of the season. If the committee must adjust a team's lineup in two consecutive weeks or for three or more weeks in any one season, the team will be considered inactive and the executive committee may assume ownership of the team as detailed in the active ownership requirements section.

    Comments: Harsh but necessary. While you hope that you never have to use this rule, it must be in place to prevent one owner from screwing up an entire season. As with the trade veto section, this rule should be used only in extreme cases.

    [5.0 Scoring System]

    Scoring in GFFL will be computed to two decimal places. This will allow points to be awarded or deducted for every positive or negative yard and will dramatically reduce the chance of a tie game. Players are awarded fantasy points for each week that they are included in the team's starting lineup. Players may only start at one position in any given week and will only be awarded points as described by their position distinction below.

    QB / RB / WR / TE Scoring

  • 0.1 points for every rushing yard (-0.1 points for each negative rushing yard)
  • 0.1 points for every receiving yard (-0.1 points for each negative receiving yard)
  • 0.05 points for every passing yard (-0.05 points for each negative passing yard)
  • 6.0 points for each touchdown scored (rushing, receiving, passing, fumble recovery, or kick return)
  • 1.0 points for every 2-point conversion pass
  • 2.0 points for every 2-point conversion run or reception
  • -2.0 points for every interception thrown
  • -1.0 points for every fumble that is recovered by their own team
  • -2.0 points for every fumble that is recovered by the other team (lost)
  • PK Scoring

  • 1.0 points for every extra point made
  • 3.0 points for every field goal made
  • 0.1 points for every yard a field goal is beyond 30 (ex: 35 yard field goal will receive .5 additional points)
  • -1.0 points for every missed extra point
  • -2.0 points for every missed field goal
  • Comments: By breaking out place kickers from other positions, you designate different scoring rules for that section. So if a kicker runs in a touchdown, they will not score any points for the run or the touchdown. If you want to add that option, you should spell it out here. This type of position break down isn't needed as much in standard leagues, but can really help in leagues that start individual defensive players and have players that may play both sides of the ball. A linebacker that comes in on offense would not get a rushing or receiving touchdown unless it was specifically broken out, and wide receivers who are on special teams would not get additional points for return yardage or touchdowns unless specified in this section. If you want players to score points in any way possible, simply designate that all positions score points in the same manner - this way if a kicker throws a touchdown pass on a trick play or a special teams wide receiver makes recovers a fumble, they always get the points.

    Defense / Special Teams Scoring

  • 2.0 points for every interception and fumble recovery
  • 2.0 points for every sack recorded
  • 2.0 points for every safety recorded
  • 6.0 points for each touchdown scored (fumble recovery or kick return)
  • [5.1 Point Totals and Final Scores]

    GFFL will be hosted on MyFantasyLeague.com. Head to head scoring will be determined each week by the stats from that website. From time to time, the NFL may go back and change the scoring of certain plays later in the week. MyFantasyLeague.com gives the commissioner the option to make these scores retroactive. However, to maintain a sense of fairness and avoid confusion in the league, all head-to-head scoring will be resolved as of Tuesday at noon Eastern. Any scoring changes that come out from the NFL after that time will not be applied to the league.

    Comments: The NFL will never change the final score of a game with a scoring update, but fantasy football can have that happen. A few extra yards or a fumble recovery may actually change the outcome of a game. To avoid confusion, you should draw a line at some point before free agency starts each week where all fantasy football scoring from the previous week is final.

    [6.0 Offseason Activities]

    Owners are strongly encouraged to maintain their current contact information as part of the league software. Please make sure to include your name, phone number and email address in the event that we need to reach you during the off season. You should expect to be contacted in July with information about next year's draft. Thanks and welcome to GFFL!

    Comments: You can add additional rules or twists to the league as you see fit. This constitution should only be a guide to help you get started. GOOD LUCK!

    As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to grant@footballguys.com.

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