Commish HQ: No Pay, No Play!

By Reginald James
Reginald James

A popular complaint among fantasy commissioners is they hate collecting league dues. More specifically, they hate having to continually ask folks for money who take their time to pay. Some of those people end up paying late, or not at all. No commissioner wants to go through all of that. Commissioners are busiest during the preseason and have other things they can take care of besides getting people to take care of their business. In a perfect fantasy world, people would pay their money on time. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality for some commissioners. I am here to offer you the “No Pay, No Play” policy.


"No Pay, No Play” is a very simple concept. If a league member doesn’t pay their fees, they don’t play. They don’t get to participate in the draft. They especially don't get to hold a team hostage that they were allowed to draft, and Week 4 comes along and they still haven't paid you. Nope, you remove that option from the very start. This seems like an obvious and basic concept, yet you’d be surprised how many commissioners I come across who respond to me with a, “Yeah, I should do that, buuuuuuut …” when I mention this as a suggestion.



The problem is, those who find themselves in the position of being a fantasy commissioner, sometimes turn out to be some of the very people who don’t like conflict, and will try to avoid it at all costs. This isn’t an issue for some of us, but what if someone who does, find themselves embroiled in the business of money-chasing? We’re going to try to help with that.


Rules, Glorious Rules


There should be specific rules written that talks about pool money. The rules should explain:


• the process by which the money will be collected

• the methods of payment accepted

• the fee each member will pay

• the end-of-season payout breakdown

• the penalty for late or no payment


The more specific you can get, the better. Make sure, that if you create rules for your league, you’re willing to apply them. This will make the job easier for those of you who come from the crowd that doesn’t like confrontation or conflict. The rules - which everyone will have - will have your back.


If you’re late with a credit card payment, the bank hits you with a finance charge. The library fines you if you don’t return books on time. The rules are there to protect those establishments. Afford yourself the same benefit.


Be Back Soon


Do you want to make your life easier as a commissioner? Plan ahead. Plan, plan, plan. It’s easy to find out when the NFL will begin the upcoming season. Start backtiming from that first Thursday night game. Decide what the dates and deadlines are for:


• when you’re going to have your draft

• when managers need to choose keepers

• when the pool money is due

• when you’re going to announce the draft order/keepers


My first league letter of the season goes out in April as soon as Yahoo opens access to their fantasy football leagues. Members have over four months to come up with the money. They have over four months as well to make plans to be available for our draft. For example, this is my version of the “No Pay, No Play” policy that I send to my league every year:


Pool Money Deadline - Monday, August 23rd

Keeper Submission Deadline - Friday, August 27th 11:59 PM

Keeper List Announcement - Saturday, August 28th

Draft Day: Saturday, September 4, 8pm EST


The draft order is announced at the same time as the keepers list.


NOTE: If pool money is not received by the August 23 deadline, you (1), forfeit your option to choose your Keeper, and (2), you open the potential to be replaced with a new owner. NO EXCEPTIONS. Please do not wait until the last moment to send in your pool money.


Every year, I read about issues with fantasy commissioners trying to come up with a draft date that works for everyone. Announce it in April and you give people plenty of time to work that out. Additionally, try to make it the same time every year. My league drafts the very last weekend before the season begins. We’ve been doing this for years. Everyone knows what to expect, and can plan for it. As soon as the NFL announces the date of the season opener, my league will know when our draft is going to be, and how the other key dates fall in line with it - especially the pool money deadline.


Pick a date that works for your league, but make the conscious decision to try to stick to the same period each year. Your league members should find comfort with the consistency of an annual event that they, without much thought, can easily plan for. Meanwhile, you as commissioner, will have raised the bar of expectations for people to adhere to, lowering the possibility for people to make excuses.


I’d Do Anything


Let’s say you’ve set a fee deadline, and have a rule like the one mentioned above where anyone who is late with their fee will forfeit their keeper selection and can be replaced. Remember when I said earlier that you have to be willing to apply the rules? In this instance, you have to be ready to replace the delinquent manager. You’ll be able to do that if you have a running list of people you can recruit to join the league in case there’s a vacancy (for whatever reason). Try to have a least five names ready for action.


I call my list The Reserves. I recommend keeping a list of reserves as part of your “League Maintenance Program” which I encourage commissioners, especially first-time commissioners, to consider adopting. Yes, I replaced my own cousin one season. They have since returned to the league – but they’ve never been late with their money ever again. Everyone else in the league saw that I had no problem applying the rules, and that set the tone going forward.


Reviewing the Situation


You have to decide what works for you. Establishing a clear set of rules that you feel confident enforcing is the key. Don’t include a rule, no matter how great you think it is conceptually, if you know deep down you won’t be able to carry it out. As soon as you show the league that you’re willing to be indecisive in following a rule, or that you’re willing to make an exception for someone, you’ve set yourself up for potential trouble. Remember, the clearer and the more specific the rules are, the better for the league, but also the better for you when it comes to enforcement.



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