Tips for improving your fantasy league: Keeping the peace through bylaws

Fantasy sports are in our DNA at Yahoo, and we know it’s your passion, too. We’re always looking for ways to make our award-winning experience even better and in this case we’re getting help from one of you, our amazing legion of fantasy players, to take leagues to the next level.

Commissioner’s Corner is a multi-part series meant to provide tips to keep your league engaged all season long and tap even more into the fun that comes with playing fantasy. The author, Justin C. Cliburn, has been the dedicated commissioner of his Yahoo Fantasy Football league The OIL since 2006. While it’s a unique league, each and every one of your leagues is special and brings friends, families and co-workers closer together.

Part 2 of the series: Keeping the peace

Your main job as commissioner is to keep the peace, as in-fighting and bickering among league members (over and above the obligatory trash talk) absolutely kills morale. You keep the peace by nurturing stability and efficiency in decision-making. And that all starts with a written governing document.

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Whether you call it your constitution, charter, or bylaws, the purpose remains the same: make the rules are clear before a situation arises.

Types of things to include your bylaws:

  • League configuration

  • Scoring settings

  • Waiver wire and free agency system

  • Trade rules

  • Playoff schedule

  • Dues policies

  • The mechanism for changes to the rules

A thorough set of bylaws provides three distinct advantages as a commissioner:

  1. They prevent controversy later by decreasing uncertainty and distrust;

  2. They shield you from criticism when you make a decision (“Don’t blame me; I just followed the bylaws.”); and

  3. They keep you honest.

The last thing any commissioner can afford is accusations of malfeasance, and that’s what decision-making on the fly leads to. Those accusations can tear apart the league, and I speak from experience.

In 2009, our 14-team league was set up to advance six teams to the playoffs, with the top two seeds receiving first-round byes. Things were looking great for Norman Nobodies manager Matthew Leal, as he was locked into the number-one seed. But, for reasons that escape me now nine years later, I decided things would be more interesting if eight teams made the playoffs instead. So, I unilaterally chose to expand the playoff field and announced my decision to the league.

You can see where this is going. The ThroatPunchers, managed by one of my closest friends, claimed the eighth seed at .500. But he got hot at the right time and knocked the Nobodies out in the first round, leading to accusations that I changed the playoff field to benefit my buddy. I did not, and I regretted the decision more than anyone when the ThroatPunchers beat me in the championship game.

But the lesson was about more than costing myself my first title: Don’t change rules midseason, and don’t change rules unilaterally no matter the time of year. A written set of bylaws will ensure that doesn’t happen.

Thankfully, Leal forgave me, even though my mistake cost him his best shot at a championship. To ensure you don’t make the same mistakes, feel free to take our bylaws and make them your own. They’re in Google Docs form, so click File>Make a Copy to start keeping the peace in your league.

Bylaws can be as detailed or as streamlined as you like, but remember the point of laying out the rules is to avoid issues between league members. Amendments can also be made if something becomes a problem, but as mentioned above, make sure to clearly explain how changes are passed.

Helpful hint: Once you have the bylaws set, be sure to include them (or least a link to them) in your “Commissioner’s Note” of your Yahoo Fantasy league. You can access the note under the Commissioner’s Tools tab.

Up Next: Now that we’ve covered the rules, Part III of the series will tackle building culture in your fantasy league.

More tips for improving your fantasy league:

Starting with the basics