I posted something along these lines a couple of years ago in the Madden subreddit, and I thought it would be good to revisit (especially now that I have my own site).
Every day, there are hundreds of online Madden CFM leagues created, and most of them fizzle out (assuming they even ever start). The community is full of guys who obviously love playing Madden, and in my humble opinion, being part of an online league is the way to go to get your money’s worth from this game. So what’s happening? Why do these leagues fall apart?
I’ve been a commissioner of various online leagues since the start of Madden 13. I've been in leagues that have thrived, and I've been in leagues that have collapsed hilariously (some because of me). But now that I am in the middle of my fifth Madden running online leagues, I thought I'd share some tips for anyone who is looking to start their own CFM league. Hopefully your new league can be an awesome and active place for you to enjoy this game.
Starting A League
1. Create a home for your league
Do this BEFORE you start recruiting. More often than not, people make posts testing the waters to see if there is interest in a new league and say they will start one...if there is interest. You will ALWAYS be able to find 31 other guys for your league.
Show people that you are serious about the league by creating a home for it, and you will get a much better response from your initial recruiting post.
Some suggestions for league homes:
- A subreddit. I think this is your best option. It's easy to customize and very easy for users to create posts and comment and stay engaged. This is what we use for Madden Bros.
- DaddyLeagues. It's not working right now for Madden 17, but it's expected to be back up and running whenever EA decides to release their app. If you know your way around HTML and coding, you can do a pretty decent job customizing the site, plus all of your league stats are built right in. Check out the Top 20 leagues in DaddyLeagues.
- Your own site. Between Wordpress and Squarespace and the various other site builders out there, making your own website has never been easy. If you are looking for your members to create content on the site or comment, you're going to have to make it easy for them. We tried to move Madden Bros over to a website, and it floundered.
- Some random forum site. It's better than having nothing, but forum interfaces are so archaic. There are better options.
2. Customize your home
If you are using reddit, the sky is the limit for customization. You can set up user flairs that easily show team affiliation. Here is a tutorial.
If you see something you like on another subreddit (formatting for a table, special flair, sidebar images, or whatever) but you’re not sure how they do it, add /about/stylesheet to the end of the subreddit. (Example: http://www.reddit.com/r/madden/about/stylesheet) This lets you see what’s going on behind the scenes. More often than not, you can lift the code from their subreddit and paste it into yours (usually with a little tweaking).
Whatever you choose for your home, give your coaches a reason to keep coming back and a reason to engage.
3. Set league rules from day one
Many leagues like to go with the flow with rules and try not to be too strict (especially in the beginning), but it almost always backfires. Your league needs structure, and you need to lay at least the basic groundwork so people know what they’re getting into. You can see the rules for Madden Bros here. These rules might not work for every league, but they could be a good jumpstart for you.
4. Ban trades until Week 4
No matter how much time and effort you put into the initial setup of your league, a large percentage of the guys will be gone within the first few weeks. The last thing you need is for someone to make a blockbuster trade and then bail on his team. Let everyone play a few weeks with their team so they can get used to the rosters (and so you know who will actually still be in the league) before you allow trades. We restrict all new users from trading until they have played four games, and we require all trades involving 1st round picks or players with a 90 OVR or higher to be approved by a trade committee.
5. When starting a Fantasy Draft League, fill as many users as possible before drafting
Fantasy drafts are hard enough to maintain when everyone drafts their own team. If you start the league and have the computer try to build a fantasy team, it’s going to be shitty...and you are going to have a hard time convincing anyone to take over a team that was built with no direction. Give yourself a couple of weeks to fill your league as much as possible and use a site like Doodle to coordinate your draft time. Another option: Set a date and time two or three weeks out and only allow people to join the league who can make the draft. Far too often, I see posts pop up saying, "Hey I am starting a fantasy league. Draft is in an hour. Anyone wanna join?" Don't do this. It won't work.
Maintaining a League
6. Sync your league with a page on DaddyLeagues
There is a one-time fee of $33 to set up the page, but it is worth every penny. DaddyLeagues is down right now because of EA, and our league is much worse because of it. The site has easy-to-access, updated stats and box scores from each game (which lends itself to more engagement from your coaches).
7. Create a league chat
DaddyLeagues has a chat tool built into the site, but it's not great. Go with a more advanced tool like Slack, Discord, or GroupMe. Even if you are on reddit or another forum-based site, having a place where people can chat about their games or trades or what crappy food they ate for breakfast is a great way to build a better community.
8. Remove owners early and often
A lot of guys will say they are interested in joining your league but won’t actually follow through. If someone isn’t playing their Week 1 game, don’t hesitate to remove them immediately. If they aren’t excited enough to play their first games in a brand new league, they shouldn't be in the league. As your league goes on, you can become more lenient with this.
9. Keep things moving
Some leagues use a set schedule for advancing from week to week (example: Advance every 48 hours no matter how many games have been played). I get why leagues do this, but I'm not a big fan. The more games that coaches miss, they more likely they are to lose interest. We have a flexible advance schedule in Madden Bros, and we usually advance about once every two days. Stay on top of the games that are being played, and message any stragglers so people know what's happening.
10. It’s going to be up to you to drive engagement
You need to set the tone for posting in the league. Post schedules, post stats or facts of the day, post highlights or recaps from your games, post power rankings or trash talk threads or prediction threads….anything to keep your league active. Highlight your members with stuff like League Ask Me Anythings. You need to give your members a reason to check back on the home on a regular basis. Madden Bomber League is the pinnacle of member engagement. Check out their Twitter page. It's insane.
11. Set a prize, even if it’s just digital
You don’t have to send the winner of your league a trophy or pizza or anything like that, but you should at least acknowledge them with a graphic in your header or in your sidebar -- something they can get excited about seeing. Celebrate their victory in your league!
12. Be consistent and firm (but consult the league when necessary)
Make sure you lay down the law of your league with an even hand. Be consistent when people break the rules and encourage a fair and friendly atmosphere in your chat. Don’t tolerate people being jerks in the threads or in the games. Your league isn’t the place for that. It’s good to have your coaches vote on big decisions. (Use Google Forms or Survey Monkey.) They will feel be more invested in the league, and even though you are the commissioner, you are just 1 of 32 guys in the league. It should be a group effort. Their feedback is important. And it should go without saying, but don't abuse your commish privileges. Don't clear your salary cap or edit your players or adjust sliders or any other funny business.
I hope these tips help with the creation and maintenance of your league. Participating in an active league can make Madden a 12-month experience for you. If you have any questions or need some advice, comment below!