Commish's Dev Blog #2: Porting A League

by Cameron Irvine

I'm back with another inside look at the SFL's transition. In our first Dev Blog, we looked at building stadiums and why these are better than any larger-than-life animatronics a studio can create - because these stadiums mean something more. You can check out that dev blog here. As always, this blog is from my point of view, no one elses. You don't have to agree, you don't have to comment. It's just simply here for those who are interested in the process of our great transformation.

Today, it's all about self-evaluation. How do you convince nearly 800 people that the company's evaluation of the product is the way that it is and it's steps to improve the product will actually make improvements? Simply, you can't. That's the hard part. Some of you out there will read the words, watch the videos, see the photos and say: nope, it's not going to work. And I have to live with that. I have no other choice, because the things that you appreciated from before, others did not. You just weren't a part of those conversations and thought everything was just fine.

This part is the boring part of major decisions, the part no one talks about and is hard to explain - but it's real. It's not the photo galleries, the videos, the articles, the announcement hype - it's everything that comes before. So, how does one go about making the moves to forge a better life, a better company, a better product?


Often misconstrued as never being happy or striving for perfection, self-evaluation is an analysis of who you are or what you've created/developed, identifying what is working, identifying what is not, building solutions to deficiencies and putting plans into action. Being proud of what you built, and excited about what can be built next.

So self-evaluation. What works?

  • Our broadcast team. Best in the business. Organized with teamwork and the ability to help each other and lend the helping hand when in need.
  • Our league schedule. Variety of times, days. Positive response to This Week in the SFL shows and Impact Monday. No reason to make drastic changes.
  • Our broadcast distribution methods. Good partners, good equipment/technology that is aging from our push to HD in 2018, but still serviceable.
  • Our team and league branding is strong. People know who we are, recognize our league and teams and we're starting to see casual fans of teams pop up around the world. We can continue to grow that through consistency.

What isn't working?

  • Our games are getting stale. Same plays, same process, same rosters, same builds, same DNA, same AI. All things eventually get stale, but do we want to be Lambeau Field, aging gracefully with evolutionary options or do we want to be FedEx Field, built in 1997 and dumping sewege from its rafters?
  • Our players don't stand out. They can't differentiate; once signed, a player can not progress and be nearly as valuable to the team as they were when they signed. Players can be treated any which way and have no way to improve themselves without also improving the team that isn't adjusting or listening. You use progression or you lose it. Nothing transfers over, there is a finality to everything.
  • Our draft is backwards. The draft is too much about what you can do and not enough about what you've done or who you are. There should be a better balance there. Player builds eventually just look like all the others. The same teams keep failing to retain players. Regardless of record, the same teams struggle to retain and engage their players. New players can help breathe new life into the locker room but everything starts at the top. We must incentivize teams to find value in not only the players who want to play for them, but to also want to engage players around the league and gather as many players as possible as the league continues to grow.

These are the three phases we have addressed in the last few months, in the order of priority. Providing an advantage to teams who have higher retention and a more organized unit that doesn't need the draft to fix its problems was the final nail into the evolution of our model that focuses on people and outward connection, not inward hibernation. They say if you need the draft to save your season, your season is already over. Building a Champion starts well before the draft. It takes a team to build a Champion. Build a team, then worry about being a Champion.

The SFL started with seven individuals who had it all. They built their teams, they signed fake players, they turned in a playbook. They had everything their imagination could hold and everything was catered to that imagination. We talked to no one outside of our small bubble, had fake sponsors and fake commercial breaks. It was a starting point.

People may take this as me blaming coaches, owners, team leaders for these problems. It's not their fault, it's my fault - because I am responsible for everything that happens inside these walls. But if team leaders can't self-evaluate like the league, they will never get better. Self-motivation, self-evaluation. That's how to build a great league. That's how to build a great team.

Tomorrow begins the Season 21 signing period. Time to build.