AUGUST is here, which for sports fans both sides of the Atlantic Ocean means it’s time to start preparing for the fantasy football season.
Whether it’s English Premier League, National Football League, association football, American football, soccer, footy or gridiron, the auction – or auction draft as our cousins across the Pond call it – is by far the best way for your league to pick teams – or rosters.
This Saturday (9 August) the Kenna League will hold it’s 10th anniversary auction. Since 2005 the Kenna has held nine Premier League, three World Cup and two Euros auctions, along the way looking to improve the overall experience of what can be a gruelling test for managers, but an even bigger one for organisers.
As more and more fantasy football disciples discover this ultimate format of selecting a team, it seems an ideal time to share our top 10 tips for running a fantasy football auction which will hopefully prove useful whether you’re a dilettante commissioner or veteran chairman.
1. Choose a good venue
Atmosphere is everything. An environment where managers can focus on the auction for a few hours without distraction is the key. Avoid online auctions at all costs, you want to see the pain on the opposition’s face when they lose out on a target.
Only cricket’s Indian Premier League can shell out to hire an exclusive hotel’s conference room for an auction (and they look dull anyway). YouTube evidence suggests our American cousins find a cheaper option to be someone’s house or garage, but the Kenna League is based in London, a city where flats are small and only Russian oligarchs or Arabian oil sheikhs can afford covered parking.
For the Kenna League there is only one place for an auction, and that’s where the league was born: the pub. Central London has thousands of boozers with function rooms that do just the job, providing a convenient travelling distance for managers across the capital and, crucially, easy access to a licensed bar.
Alcohol is a must. All the better if manager’s can order drinks at the bar while participating in a bid. Shots bring an added dimension and can lead to controversy, but if there’s one thing football supporters love it’s controversy.
2. Set an appropriate budget
Compared to our American counterparts, who appear to set limits up to $200 (£118) for each team, the Kenna is the poor relation. League entry cost just £25 ($42). For some reason in English slang this monetary value is known as ‘a pony’.
Uncle Sam may dismiss this value as trifling, but the advantage of a lower cost is that managers are more likely to enjoy the auction, rather than see it as some sort of medium-term investment opportunity. If you want a meeting with your bank manager about risk averse investment, he’ll tell you to stay away from football. Do yourself a favour and stay away from fantasy football auctions too.
For the Kenna entry fee of a pony, managers receive as assumed £100m budget to buy 11 players, which is more in keeping with the prices footballers fetch in real life.
Those still dismissing the paltry entrance fee must also consider that during the Emerson World Cup auction in June, 16 managers racked up a bar bill of £500 ($845).
3. Set one formation and a player quota
Every manager should be aware from the outset of what formation of players they need to complete their team. In the US, it can be the 2RB-3WR system with it’s quota of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends etc.
For the Kenna it’s the classic 4-4-2: one goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers. Ideally, the ratio should tally with the number of players in that position on the player list.
The Kenna has found an entertaining recipe for an auction to be the one-player-per-club quota, so managers may only have one player from Chelsea, one from Manchester United etc. It means competitors must think hard about who they want from each Premier League club, which can make life extremely difficult (see ‘7. Forfeits’ below).
4. Assign roles and rotate them
The Kenna is lucky enough to have a professional auctioneer in its ranks, but even he could not keep the pace needed to host an engaging commentary for five hours. He also looks like Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, which some people find unsettling when forced to see him for prolonged periods.
Pick anything from three semi-competent managers to take it in turns with the hammer. Likewise, select three or more managers to take it in turns recording sales on a central list or spreadsheet. Rotation means managers will be more engaged in proceedings.
5. Robust admin
Our American counterparts appear to prefer projectors or large flip charts to share sales with the room. While efficient in someone’s house or garage, it can be difficult managing these items in the pub.
The Kenna is fortunate enough to have the chaps in charts and graphs. They’ve created an Excel spreadsheet to record signings, flag up if a manager has exceeded their budget or player quota and automatically generate a list of completed sales.
Make sure you’re auction has a steadfast method of chronicling events. It’ll come in handy for those ‘I only paid this much for him’ arguments late in the evening.
6. Auction pace
Attention levels must be maintained by running the auction at a brisk speed. Meandering bids and long gaps between lots are dull for everyone. Aim for around 45 players per hour. If you can get through one lot a minute you can reward the league with a cigarette break.
The pace can be sped up by introducing a random player draw instead of the tedious process of managers taking it in turns to pick a player. This Saturday the Kenna auction will see around 270 players go under the hammer. The 200 most desirable Premier League players will be drawn from a hat, meaning all managers will find the next player to be drawn of interest.
The Kenna League is too old and wily to believe that any manager bought an ineligible player by accident, particularly after one manager’s unchivalrous behaviour two years ago. Whether it’s too many players in one position or too many from one club, introduce a forfeit system to punish those either cheating or not paying full attention.
The Kenna introduced the Titus Bramble ruling as a forfeit system. Any manager caught transgressing the rules will immediately have the ineligible player removed and replaced with a bogey player from the Titus Bramble squad – a pre-selected list of footballers of questionable quality.
It would be interesting to hear from our American counterparts who they consider to be the Titus Bramble of their league.
8. Auction paraphernalia
A printed player list and a pen are all each manager needs to take part. If everyone’s sitting around with their own laptop for six hours casually browsing the internet then all atmosphere is lost and you may as well be at a miserable great uncle’s wake.
Other items the Kenna has found contribute to surroundings include:
- The Bramble Bell – an Alpine cow bell stolen from a bar in a French ski resort which is rung whenever administrators spot a Titus Bramble forfeit
- The Horn of Africa – a bicycle horn squeezed when a sale is considered to be of poor value or a manager behaves inappropriately, named after The Horn of Africa manager’s decision to resign mid-auction when things didn’t quite go his way
- The Bramble Jersey – a Wigan Athletic shirt allegedly worn by Titus himself which must be put on by the manager in last place in the rankings table at any league gathering.
9. Time limit
If you organise an auction after work on a weeknight there’s always a risk the pub will shut before everyone’s had a chance to fill their teams.
If you organise an auction on a Saturday afternoon there’s always a risk some manager’s wife will book theatre tickets for the evening because many ladies, erroneously, consider Lion King On Ice more important than a fantasy football league.
Either way, you can be left in the ball ache of a position of having to retrospectively fill teams by email.
This Saturday the Kenna is looking to combat this administrator’s nightmare by introducing a time limit. The chaps in charts and graphs have come up with an ingenious spreadsheet that will automatically allocate remaining players based on desirability and managers’ remaining budgets.
If you don’t want to find yourself sending out lists of available players while nursing an auction night hangover, it’s suggested you find a similar solution.
10. Transfer windows
The Kenna meets twice during the Premier League season (early October and early February) for transfer windows. At these events managers sell their unwanted players at auction, and buy available players at auction.
Spice things up a bit by getting managers to submit their players two days beforehand in unusual ways by offering them bonuses for doing so. In the Kenna, the traditional method of sending in transfers by fax or mail attract the largest bonus. Avoid professional couriers, as some managers can just get these on their work accounts.
These are just a few pointers picked up in pursuit of hosting a great auction. We hope you found these tips useful, or at least enjoyed reading them.
Remember the most essential item in putting on the perfect auction is atmosphere. Picture the scene: it’s two hours in, everyone’s had a couple of drinks, teams are filling up, the mockery is flying, bids are flying, managers are starting to forfeit themselves, bells are ringing and one poor sod is sweating into a polyester football shirt.
In the Kenna that golden time is known as ‘The Bramble Hour’. Find it and managers will come flocking back to your league again and again.