December 5, 2010
of Fantasy Judgment
recently answered a few of our questions about their fantasy dispute resolution services and how they can be beneficial for leagues. Tell us a little bit about your site Fantasy Judgment and the services you provide?
Fantasy Judgment (www.fantasyjudgment.com
) is an independent, expert dispute resolution service for fantasy sports leagues. It is comprised of a five-person panel of expert judges who impartially resolve any and all disputes, issues or conflicts that arise within a fantasy sports league. The Court will issue its clients a professionally written document resembling a U.S. Supreme Court decision with a factual background of the issue, an overview of the procedural history within the league, and a detailed analysis and conclusion. Fantasy Judgment combines the world of fantasy sports with the law and helps maintain the integrity of fantasy leagues by providing neutral resolution to all issues that may arise. What sports do you provide dispute resolution services for?
Fantasy Judgment accepts cases for all of the major fantasy sports, including football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. We will also accept cases for fantasy golf, tennis, NASCAR, and just about any game or activity that can be played in fantasy. What gave you the idea to start this service? Have you experienced fantasy disputes before?
I have been the Commissioner of my 18-team fantasy baseball league since 1999. Since the beginning, I have used a league Constitution to apply all rules and guidelines for my league, but every year, something happens that is not accounted for in the Constitution. That requires me to make critical decisions. I also do not allow league votes on issues or rulings because I do not believe that would lead to an effective management or administration of the league.
The idea for Fantasy Judgment can be traced back to one specific incident that occurred on Sunday, August 31, 2008. That was the end of the first week of our league’s playoffs. I had C.C. Sabathia on my team, and that day he pitched a one-hit shutout against the Pirates. At the time, I was actually in the car with my friend (who was my opponent that week as well) listening to the Pirates-Brewers game on XM Radio. After the game was over, the Brewers’ manager Ned Yost gave a post-game interview saying he was protesting and challenging the official scoring during the game where Andy LaRoche was credited with a single instead of giving Sabathia an error. This would be the Pirates’ only hit. Yost wanted the scoring changed to give Sabathia credit for a no-hitter, which was worth a 50-point bonus in my fantasy league. I reminded my friend/opponent that when fantasy scores on CBS are adjusted after the fact, they are retroactive and change the outcome of a game. This had happened before, but never in the playoffs or for an issue as big as a no-hitter. The winner of my game with my friend would be playing the league’s Co-Commissioner the next week, so he also had a vested interest in this. Given that I had precedent where an official score was changed after a week was over, I autonomously made a decision without consulting anyone else. I ruled that my opponent and I would each submit a lineup for the next week against the Co-Commissioner. If Major League Baseball changed the official scoring and gave Sabathia a no-hitter, then I would get his 50 points and the victory. If Major League Baseball upheld the official scoring, then I would keep the score I had and officially lose the playoff game. If Major League Baseball didn’t make a decision by the end of the next week, then I would accept the loss regardless of the eventual outcome. I felt that this was the fairest way to handle the situation without prejudicing anyone. Unfortunately, not everyone in my league felt that way. I thought to myself that it would have been great if there was a 3rd party who could have ruled on this objectively. I did some research and found there were a couple of websites out there that did this sort of thing, but I was not overly impressed. I concluded that I could do something like this given my 20+ years of fantasy sports experience, plus my background and training as a lawyer What different kinds of disputes do you handle?
Most of the cases submitted to the Court are trade disputes. We have also received cases involving scoring discrepancies, lineup and roster submission issues, draft day issues, violations of league rules, alleged collusion, and conflicts surrounding prize money payout. What is the process for dispute resolution?
Prospective clients who are in fantasy sports leagues, including the Commissioner and/or league members, can go to www.fantasyjudgment.com
and submit a case. Once on the “Submit Dispute” page, people can enter as much detail about the dispute as they would like. The more information provided – the better and more detailed the opinion will be. We then require payment through PayPal at that time, and we ask that clients provide us with their PayPal receipt ID number for proof and confirmation. Once we have the submission and payment, we can provide the written opinion within 24 hours depending on the volume of cases at that time. Do both parties need to agree to do dispute resolution?
No. Most times we only receive a case submission from the plaintiff without any response from the defendant. We certainly encourage and would prefer to hear from the complaining party’s adversary so we can get both sides of the argument. But mostly we get a submission with one side’s version of the facts and then the Court is left to make certain assumptions. In the cases where we do hear from the opposition, the differing stories are usually drastically far apart from each other. Every now and then other league members, or even the league Commissioner, will provide their thoughts or opinions to the Court for consideration. The Court always welcomes and references these amicus submissions. What is the cost for dispute resolution?
We have two pricing options. We offer a per dispute fee of $15.00, or an unlimited season package for $100.00. The season package is the best option because leagues can submit as many cases as they want, including all trades for review. Is the dispute resolution decision binding on the league and parties?
Fantasy Judgment’s decisions are not binding on the leagues. We have no way of enforcing our decisions because we are an independent entity. Fantasy Judgment provides advisory opinions and offers guidance on how the leagues should handle these issues. Whether they choose to do so is ultimately up to that league and Commissioner. If a client wanted Fantasy Judgment’s decisions to be binding, they certainly could make that a condition of their league where our decision was final. But in the end, Fantasy Judgment has no authority to mandate that our decisions be implemented. What are the most common disputes you receive?
By far the most common types of disputes that we get are for proposed or accepted trades that are being disputed. The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment generally advocates for individual fantasy sports players to be able to manage their teams however they want since they are paying money to participate in the activity. But in order to combat general skepticism, cynicism, and prevent collusion which would undermine the integrity of a league, the Court will analyze a fantasy sports trade and explain why it should or should not be approved. Are there certain types of leagues or rules that fantasy players should avoid in order to decrease their chances of having disputes?
If I answer this question too well, then people won’t have a need or desire to utilize Fantasy Judgment! The first thing I always recommend is to be in a league where the rules are clearly written and delineated, preferably in a Constitution or at least outlined and visible for everyone to see. Transparency is key because then the burden shifts to all league members who had means and access to the rules. It is also imperative to understand the type of league you are in. Keeper versus non-keeper leagues are much more than just retaining a few players from year to year. The evaluation of a trade in a keeper league is extremely different than if that trade was in a non-keeper league. Sometimes people have a hard time differentiating what is unintelligent as opposed to what is unfair. It is also very important to be in a fantasy league where there are checks and balances in place. I personally do not advocate for league-wide voting on anything, including trade approval or league rules. But I strongly believe there should be levels of authority to keep the Commissioner and Co-Commissioner (if the league has one) in check. Finally, I would recommend that people generally avoid leagues where there is any question or doubt as to how and where the money is being held for distribution at the end of the season. Why is it beneficial for an entire league to sign up for the dispute resolution service?
Because it will keep the peace and let everyone in the league focus on what they signed up to do in the first place – have fun following sports and hoping their statistics are better than their opponents’ scores so they can win money at the end of the year. Worrying and bickering about things in the league ruins the whole experience. So when leagues retain Fantasy Judgment for the $100.00 unlimited season package, they are assured of having impartial decisions made for them which eliminate any accusations or perception of impropriety on behalf of the Commissioner or any league members. It also keeps every member of the league on equal ground, which will hopefully lead to the league staying together from year to year.
You can keep up with the latest information on Fantasy Judgment as well as what they are doing at the following places: www.fantasyjudgment.wordpress.com www.fantasyjudgment.com twitter.com/FantasyJudgment www.facebook.com/pages/Fantasy-Judgment/35940699955
Thanks for your time Michael. I encourage all fantasy league commissioners and owners to check out their service. It could alleviate a lot of your headaches and make your fantasy season a lot less stressful.