Yahoo! Fantasy Football Crash — A Lesson in Crisis Management

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Fun facts: It’s estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that upwards of 34 million people are playing fantasy football this year in the U.S. and Canada. This is up by approximately 60 percent in the last 5 years. In fact, if you are a male, odds are 1 in 5 that you are playing fantasy football. I think it’s safe to say that someone is cashing in big on this, right?

One of those companies that’s winning big with fantasy football is Yahoo!. In fact it seems as if Yahoo! may be the most used fantasy site out there. In July alone, they brought in over 3 million users, 2 million more than ESPN.

Yahoo! Fantasy Football Fail

On Sunday November 11, people around the country logged on to make their last minute changes to their roster. Or at least, they tried to log on. Unfortunately, the Yahoo! servers crashed and everyone was stuck. It continued to lock out users for most of Sunday — the biggest football day of the week.

Now, I may be going out on a limb here, but football fans take the sport pretty seriously, and it’s no different for those who play fantasy. In other words, people were pissed. While some play for the sake of winning, others have big prizes on the line including sports memorabilia and money. Twitter was going crazy with people expressing their anger toward Yahoo, often in colorful language that I won’t repost here.

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How Did Yahoo! Respond?

For the most part, on Sunday Yahoo! left people in the dark. I actually Googled it on Sunday to see what was going on, and I could find no official word from the company. I couldn’t even get on the website. Later I found they issued a Tweet that said, “Repeating: Engineers are still working to fix fantasy server issues. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience & appreciate your patience.” Of course, this didn’t do much to squelch the fantasy crowd from berating them on Twitter.

After Sunday, people headed into work, likely still fuming over their fantasy problems, wondering what possibly could have gone wrong. When they checked their email, they got this message:

“Dear Yahoo! Fantasy Users,I want to sincerely apologize to all of you about today’s Yahoo! Sports Fantasy outage. As the head of Yahoo! Sports and as a Yahoo! Sports fantasy player myself, I am disappointed that we failed all of our fans today. Our first priority is having the best experience for our users, and today we fell short.The outage started around Noon ET (awful timing we know) and while our team was on it immediately we are still working on various pieces. Our team is continuing to work on identifying and resolving the root cause. We have restored full functionality on the website, and we’re working for a final fix for our mobile apps. Currently data and scores can be viewed but for now you cannot make transactions or change line-ups from the apps.We will also use today as an opportunity to improve our set-up so that we hopefully never have an outage like this again. Our fantasy commissioners and players are our biggest priority – we pride ourselves in being able to offer our users with the best fantasy sports experience possible and we take our job to deliver that to you very seriously. Rest assured we will work hard to make sure we continue to deliver on that commitment.

Thanks for playing with us and your patience today,

Ken Fuchs
Head of Yahoo! Sports “


Well, at least they acknowledged something was wrong. But to me, the letter failed to:


  1. Offer users some sort of compensation for their troubles.
  2. Acknowledge exactly how important fantasy football is to a lot of people.
  3. Address any major questions fantasy players had, like what would happen with Sunday’s stats.


So while they did issue an apology (a good PR move), they didn’t go deep enough (not the best PR move).

The Redo

Apparently, Yahoo! big wigs realized they didn’t quite get it right, as they issued an updated apology letter 2 days later. I won’t bore you with all the details, but they did some things to cover their tracks and appease the still disgruntled fantasy geeks:


  • They offered an explanation of what actually occurred.
  • They explained how they fixed the problem.
  • They gave a link to a FAQ they set up to answer questions.
  • They offered free scouting reports for the remainder of the season and 20 percent off discounts in the Yahoo! Sports Store.


Lessons on Crisis Management

Like all crisis scenarios, some people are still unhappy. But in the end, Yahoo! did an okay job managing the crisis. A few lessons we can walk away with are:


  • Meet the issue head on and in a timely manner (Yahoo! failed at the latter).
  • Be as detailed as you can in you explanation.
  • Apologize profusely.
  • Give back.



How do you think Yahoo! handled the issue? Were you affected? Tell us about it!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here:


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