As a Commissioner, one of the hardest things to deal with is a dispute between two owners in the league. An owner may submit a questionable lineup or two owners may make a trade that looks very one sided. The NFL may change the scoring of a particular play and it changes the outcome of a fantasy game, or one site may say a player is a tight end and the other may say the player is a fullback. The longer that your league is in existence, the more likely that you'll run across one of these situations. You can try to anticipate these type of things with your constitution (for a sample, see this article), but what if you run into a situation that doesn't quite fit into what you already have in place? Here are a couple different approaches that you can take to resolve these situations without tearing your league apart.
Always remember that any dispute should be resolved with the overall goal of the league in mind. It isn't about what works best for you or the guy who is your best friend. You need to approach every situation thinking 'how will the league benefit the most from this decision.' Even if the dispute is only between two owners, the rest of the league will be impacted by the decision. You're setting a precedent for future situations, and it might not involve just two owners next time. Always ask yourself what will benefit the most people going forward. If you proceed in a reasonable manner, you should come to a fair decision that works best for your league.
Another thing to remember is that YOU are the commissioner. You took on that position because you wanted to run the show. Your decisions may not be popular, and some people may be disappointed. They may even be mad at you for not taking their side. That's okay; it's your job as the commissioner of the league. When the NFL commissioner suspends a player for an off the field violation, the team, the player and even the fans may not be happy with the outcome. As commissioner, your job is not to make everyone like you. Your job is to do what's best for the league. Owner's don't have to like your rules; they just have to follow them.
Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that speed counts. When a dispute gets to a point that the commissioner is involved, things have already gotten ugly. Don't make things worse by dragging it out for weeks at a time. Take in both sides of the argument, weigh the options, gather additional input if necessary and then make a decision. You don't need to make a decision on the spot. In fact, saying "I need time to think about this" is probably the first answer that you should always give. Once you've taken a little time, however, render your decision and move on.
Vote or No Vote?
It has been said before, but it is worth repeating. Opening up decisions to a league vote is not always the best solution. In many cases, it can cause more trouble than it's worth. In cases where an owner proposes a new rule, or you are planning on making a major shift in a way that the league is run, putting it to a vote might be appropriate. However, if the dispute is between two owners, especially if involves a trade or some type of transaction between the two, be smart and leave the rest of the league out of it. What happens in most cases is that the friends of both owners come to their rescue or they side with whatever decision will benefit them the most. Putting these type of disputes to a league vote takes it from a scuffle between two owners to dividing up the league. Avoid the temptation to let the majority rule unless absolutely necessary. It could end up damaging things a lot more than you might think.
Additional Information / Suggestions
Footballguys.com has an entire message board community dedicated to discussions about your fantasy football league and team. The Assistant Coach Forum has hundreds of people, and staff members reading through there on a daily basis and adding their opinions. If you're really stuck with a unique situation, or just want to see if anyone else has run into it before, feel free to pop over and post your specific question there. Make sure to give the specifics of your league and provide as much detail as possible. Many of the folks on the Footballguys.com community have been playing fantasy football for many years, and they bring a variety of different opinions and experiences to every situation.
Ask a Footballguy
Everyone on the Footballguys.com staff has a dedicated footballguys.com email (usually email@example.com). Many also have twitter accounts and other methods to reach out to them. If you prefer to talk to folks one-on-one, feel free to send any of us an email asking for help. A couple cautions with this please: Most of the guys on staff have other jobs as well as working for Footballguys.com. They may be busy or unable to answer your question immediately. Also, please do not spam everyone on staff with the same question. As you can imagine, we got a lot of junk mail and if email isn't sent directly to a person, it may end up in a spam folder or delete bucket. Most guys are more than happy to help out fellow fantasy football commissioners at any time. If you e-mail Cecil Lammey, Sigmund Bloom, or Matt Waldman, you might even hear your question read on the audible podcast!
Commissioner Personal Interest
There may come a time when you are personally involved in the situation. If that happens, you can go a couple different ways. If you make a ruling, you must be absolutely sure that you have the overall best interest of the league in mind, and you need to make sure to publicly explain your reasoning and why you went the way that you did. Especially if you plan to rule in your favor. Ultimately this is never a good option because no matter how impartial you may be, you decision always looks self-serving. Your next option would be to nominate an owner who is not involved, and instruct them on the provision about serving 'the good of the league'. In an extreme case, you could put it to a league vote with you and the other owner abstaining, but as mentioned above, this should be a last resort.
One of the provisions that we had in the sample constitution was for the creation of an executive committee of the league. You and two other owners are chosen at the beginning of each season (it can be the same guys, elected positions or just round robin selection). When a dispute comes up that is not covered in the constitution, then the executive committee can decide on it as a group. This also works if you or one of the committee members are part of the dispute because you can excuse yourself from the decision and there is still someone who will make the final call.
Outside Services (if all else fails)
Google "fantasy football dispute resolution", and you'll find a landslide of different services that can help with fantasy league dispute resolutions. If you have tried any of the above suggestions, you probably won't need to use this type of thing. But if none of those ideas fit your style or league, I would encourage you to check out some of these other options as well.
After the Dust Settles
Once your ruling is over and the league moves on, as commissioner you still need to think about the future. When the season is over, you need to draw up a new provision to the constitution that covers or prevents the situation. This way you're covered for the future. If you had a good experience with the Footballguys forum or some other method, you can also add a provision that stipulates any future dispute that is not covered by the rules will be resolved in the same manner. As your constitution evolves, you'll cover more and more of the fringe areas until you have almost everything that you need. Good luck!
As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.