Commissioner Guide, Part 1: Getting Started

The Footballguys guide to starting a new fantasy football league and being the league's commissioner

The questions a commissioner must answer in advance of a new fantasy football league are vast. However, the journey begins with straight-forward decisions that guide the commissioner down the proper path for an environment for competition, rivalry, and fueling the passion for the football game we all love.


Each of these has a wide range of levels for fantasy football leagues and are not always connected. First, on the money side:

Fantasy football leagues can be either free or include an entry fee to join the league. There are perks to both and potential downfalls. First, a free league obviously has no financial strings attached. Anyone with the desire and requisite time to manage their roster for the draft and season can participate. Some, while they may love the NFL and fantasy football, may have financial barriers to paying an entry fee. Creating a league without an entry fee would include that subset of participants for the league. Some may have a fundamental issue with putting money on the line regarding fantasy football whether among friends or strangers.

If your new league is a free one, your approach may be more casual as the commissioner regarding rules, settings, etc. This venture may purely be to enhance the league's participants' enjoyment of the game. It may be a collection of family, friends, or co-owners where the league will promote their connections with each other during the football season from banter to friendly competition.

On the flip side, a higher-stakes environment of league fees and prizes many times intensifies the focus on rules, fair play, and the week-to-week and overall season's outcome. Also, money on the line means each participant needs to be fully engaged in the league's activities and a few checking out by midseason can have pronounced effects on the remaining teams and the league's outcome. A league constitution and set of rules is a requirement to spell out the expectations for participants and the rules of the league. Details are key with a constitution as situations arising without addressing them in the constitution can quickly escalate to disastrous results in an otherwise functional fantasy football league.

If deciding on a pay league, how much money involved is a key factor. Is there a minimum amount for the league required to keep things interesting for the participants? Is the league more about bragging rights than the monetary prizes to finish the season? How will the prizes be split each season? Will there be weekly prizes? What about finishing second, third, etc. for the entire season compared to first? Will participants be required to pay a transaction fee to pick up or trade players? All of these questions are vital to setting up the best league for those involved.

In a pay league, you may also want to use a premium online service (see below). If so, you should consider collecting the league software fee on top of the prize money. You may also consider working out a way to help defer the cost of the draft night festivities, such as through penalties for different infractions like starting a guy on a bye week or finishing last the year before. Finally, if you are going to run a money league, ensure everyone pays their initial fee before the draft begins and make sure the money is in a safe place until the end of the season. The quickest way to ruin a money league is to have a participant promise to pay later, only to stiff the league when they start losing too many games. Even worse is when the commissioner spends the money during the course of the season, only to not have the payout available when the season ends. Resolving these potential issues before they happen can save a ton of pain and strife down the road.


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