How to start a sports league

Wondering how to start a sports league? Read our blog post for essential advice and guidance on how to do it in the best way possible. Are you one of those people who would like to start your own sports league? There are many important things to consider. That’s why we’ve put together this blog post to give you some advice and guidance on the main things you need to consider. Read on to discover the main areas you need to think about.

Make sure there’s enough interest

This is one crucial first step when looking to start your own sports league. You need to make sure there’s enough interest within your targeted locality(s). Competition can be fierce in some sports in certain areas. So be sure to check out which leagues exist currently. Ask yourself if there’s honestly room for your new league?

You need to be practical and realistic about this. Do people in your local area really want another league in your chosen sport(s)? As a rough guide, you’ll need at least 6 teams to start with, with enough players to fill those teams. So do some initial research and confirm if there’s enough potential players to make up at least 6 teams for your league.

Start with friends and family

As with most new ventures, start by asking friends, family and work colleagues. They might know other people who might be interested. Gauge their reaction and you should soon start to see how much genuine interest there is. They should also be extra keen to help you spread the word too! As they know you and should be happy to help you out with this.

If you have a bit more time and resources, you can conduct some research online to ask people you don’t know about this. Reach out to relevant people on the local area and ask them what they think. Are they interested in a new league and do they seem keen to get involved?

Create a website for your league

It’s a good idea to get your own league website early on in the process. This only has to be something very simple to start with. Once you have confirmed there’s enough interest, then create a basic site to send people to where you can then get their contact details. This will enable you to follow up with them to keep them informed as you develop your league and get closer to launching it.

Tools for creating your website

There are various league management tools that you can start looking at that have website creation built into them. Using one of these will probably be the best way to get an initial site for your league. This will make it super quick and easy for you. So take advantage of these available tools where you can.

Having a decent looking website will also help you when it comes to securing venues for your league. If you can show them a nice looking site that looks professional, it can only be a good thing that will help to impress them.

Get active on social media

Use social media to start spreading the word about your new league in your local area. This is a great way to start making relevant people aware without having to spend any money at this early stage.

You can create regular posts as you develop your league and hit certain milestones. For example, post when you secure a new venue, source some new equipment, or bring a new team on-board etc.

Get your finances in order

Good financial planning is crucial when looking to start a new sports league. Don’t overlook this essential aspect of your league.

You can have the best league in the world with lots of interest from numerous teams and players. But if you don’t get the financial side of things right, your league could be over before it’s even begun!

Start small to save money

The good news is that starting a league doesn’t have to be something that costs much money in the beginning. If you just start small, then you’ll only need very minimal investment at this stage.

Unless you have very grand entrepreneur plans from the outset, you can just aim to break even in the early days. Put together a budget that will help you to plan the finances for your league as things progress.

So what sort of things do you need to plan for and include in your budget? Well, the obvious things are venue hire and other facilities, equipment costs, advertising and promotional expenses, and the cost of paying staff such as officials. But also have a think about what else it would be sensible to include.

Make sure you include anything that might be an expense for you along the way, and be realistic and honest about what you’ll need to spend to make your league work.

Finding the right venue(s)

One of the most crucial tasks when starting your own league is finding the right venue(s). This is a vital step that can make or break the success of your league. So make sure you put in the required time, effort and resources to get this right.

Be prepared to put in some serious work if required to find the ideal venue(s) for your league. This can often be one of the most challenging aspects of starting your own league.

Venues have become more picky

Particularly since the pandemic, it can be hard to find the right venues who give you what you need. Many venues are now more picky with regards to the type of events and activities they allow to be staged at their facilities. So it can be harder to find something really good when you first start out.

This is certainly a task that you want to get started on weeks or months in advance of when you plan to start your league. You don’t want to be struggling with venues as the date of the opening round of matches is approaching. So try and get your venue(s) sorted out as early as possible in the process.

Consider your budget

Of course, the budget that you have available will also be an important consideration when it comes to choosing the right venue for your league. This will determine the overall quality of the venues that you can approach and try to agree terms with.

Depending on the exact type of league you are looking to start, several options are available to you. Reach out to schools, colleges and universities, gyms, sports fields, and courts (if relevant) in your local area.

Types of venues to consider

School facilities are often very cost-effective, but can be tricky to pin down when you need them, as they are often in use by the host sports teams when you require them. Other facilities that you should consider include sports complexes, churches, and public parks.

If you are struggling to find something really good in the immediate vicinity, you may want to look a bit further afield. But bear in mind that there is only so far that people will be prepared to travel in order to participate in your league. As a general rule, don’t expect most people to want to drive more than say 15-20 minutes in order to play in your matches. Further than this, and chances are you’ll struggle to get enough committed participants week in, week out – to make the league a success.

Advertising and Promotion

We mentioned earlier that you should aim to have at least 6 full teams ready to go before you consider starting your league. This would be the minimum, but of course you may have aspirations to greatly increase the number of teams in your league fairly quickly.

In order to do this, you’re probably going to have to do some form of advertising for your league to drum up more interest. It needn’t cost lots of money though to reach enough of the right people to make your league grow.

Old school methods can still work

Some of the very basic and well-established old-school methods can still work well. For example, you might want to get some flyers printed and hand these out in high-footfall areas where you know lots of people in your core target audience are.

Encourage the initial people that have expressed a desire to play in your league to spread the word amongst their family, friends and work colleagues. This can be one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways of growing your league. Plus it can often cost next-to-nothing.

What to do if you have more budget

If you have more budget, you might want to take out an advertisement in the local newspaper to promote your league and make people aware. Again, these traditional marketing methods can still prove fruitful, even in todays modern digital media world.

Speaking of digital media, Facebook can be a very powerful platform for promoting your new league. Most of your target audience will be on there. And with some time and effort put into getting in front of them, you can soon garner significant interest from new people who are interested in getting involved with your new league.

Try and find influential people in your local area who can help you to spread the word about your new league. Often, these people will already have existing audiences that include many of the people that you want to get in front of. So try and get to know these people and work towards them agreeing to help you to promote your league to their own audience and contacts.

Buying the right equipment – a crucial part regarding how to start a sports league

Depending on what type of league you start, equipment might also be another key component that helps determine the success of your league. Obviously, you’ll need to have good quality equipment generally if you are starting a league for other people to play in. Especially if you are charging them to take part in your league.

Buying better quality equipment will not only mean that it lasts longer when being used possibly multiple times per week. It can also help to enhance the reputation of your league. People who take part will want to see that you’re professional and keen to provide a high-quality service to them. So having good quality, professional grade equipment will help with this side of things too.

Cheaper equipment can be a false economy

So make sure that you include the costs of good quality equipment in your budget. Remember that buying cheaper lower quality equipment can be a false economy. If you have to replace some of the equipment quickly, it can work out more expensive than just buying better equipment right from the start.

Check carefully what specific equipment the venue that you have agreed terms with is going to provide as part of the agreement. Make sure you are 100% clear on what they provide, and what additional equipment you will need to provide yourself. Confusion here can really damage the reputation of your league before you even get going. You don’t want participants turning up to take part on the first day, only to find that key equipment is missing!

It’s highly likely that you’ll have to provide things like uniforms and sports-related clothing yourself. Remember that this could be for umpires and officials, as well as just the players.

Seek out sponsors to help you out with the cost of clothing and other equipment. Contact relevant local businesses and offer them various options for getting involved as a sponsor. They can have their company logo featured on the shirts of all the players and officials. Or you can offer to promote them in some way at the venue during your league nights.

Finding umpires and officials

You’re going to need capable umpires and officials for your league in order to run it professionally. Remember that just because it’s not professional sport, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be highly competitive. Players can take the matches very seriously, and it’s not untypical for disagreements and even fights to regularly break out.

This means that you need good quality officials who are capable of keeping control and order during your league matches. If you have too many complications in this area, it’s going to put people off joining and continuing to play in your league. So make sure you put in enough time and effort to get good quality officials.

Additional benefits to having good quality officials

There are some additional benefits of having good quality officials. They will help the games to flow if they are experienced and highly capable. They will also help to create a safe environment where everyone can really enjoy the events and have lots of fun.

Good quality officials are also more likely to be consistent with their decisions. This is vital for the success of your league. Nothing can irritate players more than feeling they are getting bad decisions and not getting a fair game.

If you really do have to keep costs down to an absolute minimum, then you can try and get volunteers to officiate your matches. You can also ask your players to ask people that they know that are skilled in officiating to help out. They are likely to be willing to do this for free, or at minimal cost. Try and tap into the networks and contacts of the people that you already have onboard.

Creating Rules and Policies for your league

Having clear and formal rules and policies is vital for your league. Again, it makes everything seem professional and avoids unnecessary confusion and disputes. Strict rules are important so that no-one taking part in your league can take advantage and do anything unfair that is going to compromise the integrity of your league. For example, you don’t want any teams in your league registering professional players who are way above the average standard for the league.

Think about any areas where you might need to adjust or modify the generally accepted rules for your sport, in order to make things run more smoothly. For example, you might find that you need some modifications because of restrictions imposed by the venue at which your matches take place. Remember that the main thing is that everyone has a good time and really enjoys taking part. So think about anything that will help this to happen and facilitate a really positive experience for the participants in your league.

Make sure your communication is up to scratch

Make sure your communication about the rules and policies is up to scratch. This means sending out clear and easily understood guidelines to all teams and players prior to the league starting. You might need to confirm specific rules or policies part way through the league schedule if rules are being broken or not followed properly. Make sure you have a good system in place to get the required message across to everyone involved with your league.

Crucially, you might find that you need to discipline or punish certain teams or individuals for systematically breaking the rules. Again, think about how you will do this in advance so that it’s handled in the most professional way possible. It’s vital to demonstrate that you won’t tolerate people breaking the rules, so you’ll need to set an example if people start to do this during the early days of your league.

Make sure people take your league seriously

If you don’t get a handle on this right from the start of the league, it can become a real problem. People won’t take your league seriously and are likely to drop out if they think you’re not enforcing the rules and managing the league in the right way.

Great sportsmanship and integrity is vital to the success of any league. So take this side of things very seriously, and do everything you can to ensure that your league is as professional and courteous in this area as possible.

Incentivising participants

Another thing you might want to consider is creating incentives for players. It’s another crucial thing to consider when thinking about how to start a sports league.

This can really help to maximise the competitiveness of your matches. It can also help to get players motivated to turn up every week. Especially if your league runs during the harsher winter months, when they might be more inclined to stay at home!

Think about offering rewards to players for certain things. For example, you might have a man of the match prize that you give out. Or you might give a prize to the standout player of the session once all the games have been played on that day.

Prizes and rewards

You can also think about prizes and rewards that you can give out at the end of the season. This encourages players to be consistent and turn up to all the games. Anything that can garner more commitment and motivation to play from the participants in your league is a good thing.

This is also a good opportunity to enhance the social side of your league. By getting all players and officials together regularly, you’re creating a fun and enjoyable environment that people will want to stick with and also recommend to others.

Again, look for sponsors for these get-togethers and events to help with the overall costs of staging them. Local companies will be glad to get their name and brand plastered around the venue for these kinds of events that you can stage. Particularly if players bring along their partners and other family members to the event. Meaning that more people will see the advertising of the sponsors and their exposure is increased.

Getting Coaches for your league

Once you have the teams that you require for your league, the next step is to secure the coaches for those teams. Coaches play a vital role, so again you’ll want to try and find good quality people.

They provide support and encouragement to the players, and guidance and strategy on how to approach games and best prepare. Again use your existing network to try and find good coaches. Ask around and also ask anyone who has joined your league already to ask their friends, family and work colleagues.

Spread the word that you’re looking for coaches

Use every opportunity available to advertise that you are currently looking for coaches. Make it clear that they will be valued and appreciate by your league for helping out with their coaching services. Again, you can offer more extensive financial rewards and incentives to coaches if you need to. But try to secure good people for these roles through your existing network and contacts in the first instance.

Insurance for your league

You’ll also need to consider getting insurance for your new league. This will take the form of liability insurance which covers players, coaches, volunteers, and other officials.

It’s vital if your league is found responsible for things like injuries during the season. In this case, the insurance will help cover things like medical and legal costs.

Be clear on what insurance you need

Be clear on exactly what you need to cover yourself for in this area. Make sure you don’t overlook anything important. Otherwise it could really come back to haunt you if something goes wrong and you’re not sufficiently covered.

You might need to communicate with all the teams and players in your league to cover yourself fully. For example, you might be required to get all the players in your league to sign injury waiver forms, and perhaps some other formal documentation. Be clear on what it’s sensible to do to cover yourself, and make sure nothing is overlooked in this crucial area.

League Management Software

Another thing you seriously want to consider for your new league is League Management Software. This can save you significant amounts of time and resources as your league develops and takes shape.

It’s really important to stay organised and keep track of everything if you are going to run a high-quality league. Nothing can put participants in your league off more than poor communication and organisation, so they are confused about what’s going on. Remember it’s vital to be as professional and organised as possible.

Should you use spreadsheets?

You might be tempted to just use a few spreadsheets to do this. But there is dedicated software available these days that is designed specifically to help you manage your league. So take advantage of these high useful systems. It just doesn’t make sense to really one multiple spreadsheets and other software these days when you can simply use dedicated software designed specifically for the job.

Advantages of using dedicated software

There can be many advantages to using dedicated software. For example, they can help you to manage payment processing, communication with all your players, captains, officials and other key people, and they can also give you highly useful reporting and analytics regarding your league.

But these are just a few of the many advantages that can be gained from using a dedicated league management software solution.

Conclusion regarding how to start a sports league

We hope you’ve enjoyed this rundown of how to start a sports league. Hopefully the content has been both useful and informative.

As you can see, there’s lots to consider. There can a lot to get your head round when starting a sports league. But in our experience, it’s a very rewarding thing to do. As well as helping people to have fun and socialise, you’re also helping them to stay fit and healthy. So it can be highly rewarding to start your own sports league.

Be sure to review the various steps above and try not to overlook them if you go ahead. They are all an important part in the process of how to start a sports league. So follow the guidelines above and you should be fine.

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