The League: Tips from a Lawyer for a Successful Fantasy Football Season

August 19, 2016

It’s August, training camps and preseason games are in full swing, and the NFL regular season is right around the corner. In case you missed it on my firm bio, I’m the reigning champion of my fantasy football league. Fantasy football is just a game, but you’d be hard pressed to find many that treat it that way. I’ve been a member of many leagues over the years, and there are inevitably problems that arise throughout the course of the season. How can you avoid some of the most common problems and avoid hiring a fantasy sports dispute resolution attorney?

Tip 1: Read the Rules

The league rules are basically a contract that you are agreeing to at the beginning of the season. If members don’t read the rules, it’s asking for trouble. It could start at the draft – why is everyone selecting a kicker in the first round? Oh, field goals are 25 points. Or it could happen later in the season, as it did with our league one year with an argument about a trade deadline. The dispute led to approximately 132 spirited emails before it was finally resolved. That may not be an exaggeration.

Assuming you haven’t had your draft yet, determine the rules of your league now and send a reminder email for everyone to review the rules well in advance of the draft. Even if your draft has occurred, rule changes that don’t affect scoring could still be made since the season hasn’t started yet. Make sure to highlight any rule changes and address any disputes that occurred in previous years.

Tip 2: Choose wisely when selecting a Commissioner

The commissioner or commissioners of your league are the judge, and at times the jury and the executioner. Make sure you trust your commissioner with all of these roles and that they are in it for the long haul, because it can be a long season. It takes a special personality and set of skills to manage the multitude of personalities undoubtedly present in any given league. Your commissioner must be extremely well-organized to manage the group emails and individual emails with questions or challenges to trades. Above all, the commissioner should aim to be fair to the league and should hear all sides of the issue before rendering a decision. We’ve been blessed with a great commissioner and a few vice-commissioners that have led to smooth sailing for our league. Also, consider purchasing a powdered wig and black robe for your commissioner during official proceedings.

Tip 3: Be prepared for the Draft

The draft is like a trial, and will determine your future, at least for the next five months or more if you count the bragging rights earned by a solid showing. So be prepared. Do your research well in advance and develop your draft strategy. The draft may not go as planned, so have some backup plans in place and control what you can. If you’re drafting online, log in to your account well in advance as well, and make sure you have your login information handy. Not being able to get into your account is the legal equivalent of showing up to a trial with all of your notes and exhibits locked in a shiny new briefcase, only to realize you don’t know the code to open it. I can’t personally relate to this situation, but I would imagine sitting on the phone with ESPN customer support while your team autodrafts is an extremely unpleasant situation to be in. It could be the difference between placing and coming in fourth place overall.

Tip 4: If issues arise, remember: “It’s only a game, Focker.”

It’s only a game: sage advice from the volleyball scene in Meet the Parents. If conflicts do arise, remember, there’s more to life than fantasy football, so try to be fair and facilitate a resolution that everyone can live with. No matter what the issue, it’s probably not worth litigating, and it’s definitely not worth losing a friend over.

Good luck to you and your team in the upcoming fantasy season and go Eagles!

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University.