Friday, July 03, 2009

Eight Ways to Become a Better Fantasy League Commissioner

posted by Jon Williams
If you want to have a successful league you need to have good leadership of the league. In most leagues that leadership is in the form of a commissioner. It is not the only way but it is the most common way. My local AL and NL-only leagues actually utilize a Board of Governors which is a very good way to go, especially if you have a lot of opinionated owners and what league does not? But forming a BOG is a subject for another article. Right now I want to share with you Eight Ways to Become a Better Commissioner.
  1. Take your job seriously but don't become a dictator - The commissioner's role is not to force the other owners to accept his terms. Rather the Commish should be guiding the league so that things go smoothly. When a decision that affects every team becomes a priority, the league should be voting so that the majority rules. The commish should be making the small decisions that need to made and enforcing the rules.
  2. Build a League Constitution and be certain that every member of the league has access to it and understands it - Most of the disputes that come up in fantasy leagues are the result of misunderstanding the rules. A written constitution (constantly updated) will end most disputes. The commissioner should not have to argue his point but rather point to the rule that decides the argument.
  3. Do not become angry when owners make mistakes or misunderstand the rules thereby forcing you to take action - Every season an owner is going to wait too long to activate a player or pickup an ineligible player or bid FAAB dollars he doesn't actually have. The commish should not become angry at this. It should just be dealt with in the most matter-of-fact fashion possible. It is okay to provide an owner(s) with a reminder about a rule when necessary but avoid making personal observations when delivering them. An owner may be an idiot but you don't have to tell them so. Which leads perfectly into...
  4. All of your communication with the league as a whole should be done in a neutral tone - As commissioner you should never come off as snide or arrogant or the league will turn against you. You should speak as commissioner with the best interests of the league in mind. Bad mouthing other owners or embarrassing them is not in the league's best interest. You should be as impartial as possible, like a referee or umpire. If you insult the owners in any way you will damage your standing with the league. Keep your communication clear and to the point, especially when you are enforcing rules or correcting mistakes. The more irrelevant comments you make the more insulting you potentially become. "Player A is not available for FAAB bidding until he comes off the DL as noted in Section Three of the League Constitution" is good. "Player A is not available for FAAB until he comes off the DL. I have mentioned this many times and every owner should be clear on this by now. I DON"T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!" is bad.
  5. Keep Fantasy League accounting separate from your personal accounting - Most commissioners also find themselves appointed the league secretary and treasurer as well. You should keep an organized ledger of all financial transactions made for the league. Keep all the receipts and paperwork involved. It is not that anyone doubts your honesty but a good commish can explain where every cent went. It would be a good idea to open a bank account just for the league (especially for big money leagues). My local leagues use the interest to subsidize banquets and our other scheduled get-togethers.
  6. Do not assume that every bad trade is the result of collusion - Collusion is a lot rarer than most owners believe. The commish should only investigate a trade when the majority of the league insists on it (and the League Constitution should support such an action). A trade that appears to be bad may look bad when examined in a player A for player B context but there are many other factors to consider. When such an issue arises discretely ask each owner why they made the trade. You may be surprised to learn that Juan Pierre for Tim Lincecum is fair when examined in a different context. If the owners can explain their reasoning that should be the end of it. Just because you do not agree is not reason to veto a trade.
  7. Keep every owner involved via good communication - As commissioner you should be in regular communication with every member of the league. Whether you do this by sending out regular newsletters and e-mails or by making phone calls is irrelevant, as long as every owner feels comfortable coming to you with any complaints or questions they may have. As commissioner you should be available to every owner for league related matters. The other owners should all know how to best contact you whether by e-mail or phone or both. You don't have to become everyone's best friend but you should treat them as fellow members of a very exclusive club, because they are.
  8. Be vigilant - Nothing upsets owners more than retro-active changes because of mistakes. Every owner should be checking the rosters of every other owner but it is your job to make the corrections. If the rosters are constantly out of date or trades linger in limbo waiting to be input, owners will get angry and lose respect for you in your position. If you can't handle the work yourself let the league approve a co-commish to help you in your duties. Just be clear about who is responsible for what.
Are you the commissioner of a fantasy league? What methods does your league use to make things run smoothly and keep the owners happy? Discuss in the comments section.


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