Unfortunately, almost every league will face their biggest battle - inactive teams. These teams are usually ones that have not changed for weeks at a time, no lineup changes made, trades left pending, and of course, injured players left in. It is very frustrating for all involved as they start to hand out "free wins" most weeks but somehow score 175 points from 7 players when you are against them. It ruins the integrity of the league, and can leave a sour taste if you try to renew your league for next season. I'm sure this happens from time to time in home leagues that are not very close to each other, but leagues formed on platforms such as Twitter and Discord will see these the most. I am hoping this article helps your league decide what to do going forward, and strategies to ensure it isn't a problem that continues for weeks on end.
Ways to Avoid Inactivity
Constant Group Engagement
From what I have heard, a good chunk of managers will tend to lose interest in leagues where they don't really know their league mates or are in a very dull/boring group chat. Ones where you see a random message every 3-6 months, and noone wants to offer out trades etc. Having a group chat is a great place to start, but as a commissioner sending a message here and there to get people chatting about anything helps a lot. You can send comments about big matchups in your league, players you are keen to trade out from your squad, and of course Twitter posts about injuries/teams in good or poor form. Keeping engagement high, and even banter now and again is a great way to ensure high levels of league activity. People will be more invested in trying to win if they know other and enjoy being part of the group/league as a whole.
Adding in cup competitions will ensure even those near the bottom of the table have a reason to stay active and encourage them not to give up despite the title being out of reach by GW20. (In multi-division leagues such as the IGL - relegation is a great way to encourage the lower teams to stay active). Cup competitions can happen at any point of the year with so many variations to keep managers interested. You could have one cup running the whole season with group stages and double-legged knockouts, mini-cups with straight knockouts, and even "best of the rest" type tournaments for the last-place teams. If you are running a money prize league I encourage you to have prizes for these tournaments to ensure there is some sort of reward and added motivation.
Keeping week-to-week engagement is probably the most important part of ensuring season-long activity. An interesting way to do this is weekly prizes. One of the leagues I am in offers a $35 weekly prize to the highest-scoring manager that week. It is something that lets everyone compete for a bit of money/pride no matter their place in the standings. Obviously, the amount will depend on your league's entry fee, as you should still be able to payout the winner come the end of the season. You can even have different weekly prizes such as most goals of the week, most dribbles/tackles/headers, or most clean sheets.
Trades are one of my favourite parts of Fantrax, and the more trades that happen, I often find the more active the league is. Everyone wants to get in on the action and be part of the wheeling and dealing. It helps when you have managers who aren't just "draft and hold", yes I have been told some managers refuse to trade no matter the offer. In the IGL we used to award FAB prizes to those who made the most trades in the first few months of the season, of course, the trades had to be legit and couldn't just be swapping FA pick-ups from that week. It encouraged a lot more negotiations as managers wanted that extra FAB bonus to improve their chances in the January transfer window.
Last Place Punishments
This is most common in home leagues, due to everyone being friends or family in some capacity. It makes for a great laugh at the end of the season, but the manager coming in last or those coming in the bottom three have to do some sort of punishment. I have seen ideas such as having to buy the rest of the league dinner, having to dress up in some sort of costume as a sign, and even having to stay 24 hours in some local diner. These punishments will encourage activity all the way up until the final gameweek, because no one wants to do these sorts of things. You would much rather be on the other end having a good laugh with the rest of your league mates.
In Twitter/Discord leagues, less personal punishments are also possible. As discussed earlier, relegation is probably the best sort of punishment if you have a multi-division league. No one wants to move down to a less glamorous division and even when the title is out of reach these managers will fight even more than those near the top to ensure they stay in the division another year.
Handling Inactive Teams/Managers
Establishing a warning system is a proper way to go about handling the situation when it happens. Have one thought about it before the season even starts so there is a plan in place. Usually, a grace week or two should be permitted as this is no one's full-time hobby/job. People have life, family, school, work, etc... all going on so missing the odd week, especially the midweek games shouldn't cause a huge fuss. I would usually recommend a warning if 2 consecutive gameweeks are missed or at least an enquiry about why they haven't been able to make changes. If a manager continues to be on and off with their management you should be ready to kick them out. Three strikes and you are out is a good way to go - how you hand out these strikes should be decided as a league as a whole before the season starts so everyone is happy with the layout and thus the consequences can't be argued.
A proxy system is a concept that is used in most Twitter leagues I am in, and even in my home league. Sometimes you play with managers all over the world, and games can be happening at weird hours. It will be more encouraging if managers have ways to change their lineups without waking up before 6 am on a Saturday. A proxy option should allow managers to post substitutions they would make if awake based on lineups. Example: If Maddison doesn't start please sub in Eriksen who plays in a later game. Obviously, they cannot ask to sub in a player who is locked. The proxy option should extend to managers travelling, or who will be away from their phones. Retroactively being able to make changes is a huge benefit to Fantrax, and it will allow the commissioner to make the change at any point in the gameweek. This should encourage engagement as managers will have fewer "inactive" weeks if they miss their 5:59 am alarm after being out on a Friday night until 3 am.
The other way to look at this (why it is in this section), is a temporary solution to handle inactive teams. Allowing the commissioner to make "live changes" as they see fit will encourage inactive teams to have a full XI until the league agrees on a replacement manager to come in. This should be very simple, no adds/drops and simple subs just making sure the team has a playing 11. There has to be an honour system here especially if the commissioner is coming up against the inactive team. No big "you should of played him", just simply ensure there are 11 starters, and refrain from add/drops unless absolutely necessary. For example, if the inactive team has a lot of injuries and only 7 starters, the league should agree on which players can be dropped and pick up random players that are available. I have seen this happen once before and it has worked well. It is worth consideration to ensure the integrity of the league is upheld until a replacement is found for a manager that has "ghosted" you.
Replacing the Manager
After the manager has received their strikes and has either ghosted you or not improved, then a replacement must be found. Of course, this needs to be done as quickly as possible. In twitter/discord leagues a simple post should be able to find a few eager managers willing to take over a team. In home leagues, it might take a bit longer so my recommendation is to start looking when a manager is approaching their last warning. Ask friends, and family and if no one seems keen then resort to posting on Twitter, I can promise you there will always be someone there to help you find a replacement! The key about the replacement is chatting to them briefly to ensure they will remain active so you don't need to replace the replacement....what a hassle that would be. Ensure they know how to play Fantrax and are familiar with your scoring system, and make sure they fit the "vibe" of your league. A few minutes of messaging should be able to tell you all you need to know.
If you are in a money league, then in my opinion the manager should enter free of charge, yet be eligible for all end-of-season prizing. If you feel the need to charge said manager, make sure it is the percentage of the season they will be playing, and add those funds to the prize pool. The manager who has been kicked out SHOULD NOT receive their money back unless there are circumstances you were aware of. Example: Jacob came forward to the league after 1 warning and realized he can't really keep up with fantasy due to his tough school course load. In this case, since the manager voluntarily withdrew with notice I would be okay with giving them back at least some of their entrance fee, and making the new manager pay the difference.
This should be the shortest and most obvious section. If a manager has to be kicked out due to their lack of activity in a league, they should not be allowed back into the league. It will encourage this kind of behaviour in the future from other managers knowing there really will only be a short-term minor consequence for being inactive say in a year they won't challenge for the title. Don't allow them back in the league once they are kicked - simple as that. Look elsewhere, and ensure the managers seem engaged before you accept any new recruits.
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