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Protect Your Fantasy League - Entry fees should be mandatory

by ja on 5/30/2012 1:15:54 AM

I was listening to a podcast at lunch the other that was totally unrelated to fantasy basketball. The host was talking about strategies involved in running a good workshop or classroom. He said something that made sense in the context of his talk, but a few minutes later it hit me that it also makes sense when it comes to running a fantasy sports league. His statement was something along the lines of "don't give your workshop away for free, because people will not have any real skin in the game when things get to the hard part". People may be really excited to start learning about something new, but then once they get down into guts of the subject they find that it's more complicated or harder than they wanted it to be or thought it would be. Then they leave and you've both wasted time on each other. Another example of this same type of thing is the world of fitness training. Trainers will tell you that the really serious people often choose to pay upfront so they have a vested interest in showing up for every class - an interest other than losing weight... their money! Some will decide it is not worth hanging around no matter what, but far fewer will do so if they've paid for it all upfront.

I have found this exact same logic very applicable in being the commish for fantasy sports leagues. Frankly, I've gotten to the point where I don't even like to play in non-money leagues... even among friends... especially among friends. Things can get weird / annoying without it. If we put money into a pool, even a small amount, then we have very few drop outs or no shows. People set their lineups religiously. But if we don't include a buy in for the league, then managers are more likely to take a day off or even the rest of the season off when the going gets rough for their team. They feel like it's okay because "geez, it's not like we were playing for money".

I need to explain how this viewpoint can be consistent with a post I did a few months ago called Playing Fantasy Sports Purely for Fun and to Socialize. In that post I said rule number one for a social only league was to not play for money. What gives? Well, what I said was true. If you play for money people will be far more likely to get their panties in a wad if they sense collusion (which they should if they were certain, but they're normally wrong) or if someone ruins the league by walking away or making bonehead plays. But if you don't make people put in money then there's a better chance that the league will be ruined by someone because noone's got a hard incentive to keep going. You'll have to do some risk assessment yourself to decide which situation is worse, but you can probably cover both problems if you do something like what I talk about next.

I recommend that whenever possible fantasy leagues should require a "buy in" from league members, and while it can go into a pot it doesn't necessarily have to go towards a pot. Other options are a portion of the money is given back at the end of the year to teams that never went absentee. Maybe it is divided up amongst those who kept playing. Maybe it all gets donated to a charity the league agrees on at the beginning of the season, but only in the names of the people that played all season with those that didn't play the whole season being left off the "from" tag. There tons of options, but I do know that when people have absolutely nothing invested in their league other than the time they put in they're more likely to leave when the going gets tough and their team drops from the standings. That ruins it for everyone.

I am curious how others feel about this subject or if you've seen the same types of issues. How did you handle them after the fact (when people quit playing) and how do you go about preventing it now? If you've got suggestions about how to make sure people will play before they join your league I'd love to hear them!

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Article has 4 comments.
#16 by Anonymous posted on 5/30/2012 1:18:32 AM

 I've noticed the same thing in my leagues. Whenever I play in a free league it seems a lot more people think it doesn't matter how they conduct themselves since it was "free". It's really annoying and I agree that even a small entry fee can make a difference in behavior.

#137 by Anonymous posted on 10/10/2015 11:14:13 AM
Lots of parameters to cdeoisnr 1. Know your scoring system. Know whether it favors taking a QB, or if players who return kicks have value.2. When taking running backs, try to capture feature backs first, ahead of timeshare/platoon players.3. Rookie QBs are a waste of a pick.4. Consider strength of schedule when you choose key skill players and your defense. If you have Willie Parker, and he's going up against 10 top run defenses, his value is diminished.5. Don't go overboard with risk. Use Value Based Drafting (VDP). The trick is to get players lower than their average draft position. I use for my ADP tables, and their Draft Dominator is a great tool.6. Rookie wide receivers are usually not worth drafting. For every Anquan Boldin or Randy Moss, there are hundreds of wide receivers who do squadoosh until their third year.7. When in doubt, choose players on productive teams. Teams like Atlanta have not been efficient in the red zone.8. Take a kicker with your final pick. The top kicker has been a different guy each of the last six seasons. Reaching for a kicker is a waste.9. Know your opponents. If other manager is a hard core Raider fan, use that to your advantage. Threaten to take McFadden early to force him to. Feed your opponents misinformation about your likes and dislikes of players.10. Stay sober. Drafting a team of Johnsons may sound funny when you're hammered, but there is nothing worse than dooming your team the day of the draft.
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