How to maintain/grow league attendance?

I have helped run several leagues this year, and while generally successful, I have noticed a plateau in the amount of new interest and even seem to be losing a couple of regulars. I would be interested to hear from other league organizers on what you feel are successful ways to stimulate interest and growth in your local leagues.

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It’s never ending campaigning and personal contact with everyone. Constantly texting and emailing people. Always mention it to people when buying/selling games off craigslist, etc.

It’s a ton of work really to maintain and grow every season. People don’t realize the work it takes to run good, successful, large leagues and tournaments. It’s so many hours leading up to the event.

I also noticed people need CONSTANT reminding. You mention the next season in 2 weeks. Season starts and then they are no where to be found. You contact them and they say I totally forgot! Remind people directly weekly is my new motto :slight_smile:


Flyers on every game in town definitely helps (even locations where you don’t host league).

Back in my college days I would travel all around town plastering flyers on backglasses and with a player base that kept leaving every 4 years we definitely kept the new attendance flowing.

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I’ll second what @JSwain and @pinwizj said… you just gotta work it, work it, work it. Have patience – it’s unlikely to explode in size overnight. People will come and go due to job commitments, family commitments, or just losing interest (through no fault of yours). The attendance graph ends up looking like the stereotypical stock market chart: lots of zigs and zags, but long term, it trends up.

Spreading the word that there’s good pinball to play in your community is just as important as spreading the word about your league. Make sure you keep PinballMap updated with location information. Spread the word about new locations (or new games at new locations) on here, Pinside, wherever. Getting people dropping coins into games has two benefits: 1) the location will be happy to get revenue (coin drop plus incidentals like food/drink sales), and 2) some percentage of the players will be interested in playing league. (Ask the location or operator if it’s OK for you to put little league advertisements near or on the pins… most will be happy to let you do so, since they want more customers.)

And of course, you’ve gotta have a solid league system. Players appreciate it when league formats are well designed and well managed… that gives them an experience they can’t get by just hanging out with buddies playing some games. Make sure your ruleset is fun, fair, competitive, and well documented… you want everyone to know from day 1 how grouping works, how league points are assigned, how divisions are done, etc… and you want to minimize “spur of the moment” ruling decisions as much as possible. (If you went to Pinburgh, refer to that as a model, since Pinburgh is basically a huge league season compressed into a weekend.) I will of course advocate the FSPA league system, which has been used by dozens of leagues around the country to generally favorable reviews. But there are plenty of good league formats out there… e.g. PPL has another solid model. If your league is just starting out, I’d definitely recommend basing it off one of the established league formats, rather than trying to do something completely novel… there’s a lot of accumulated experience about what works and what doesn’t.

And finally, listen to your players! They’ll tell you what’s fun and what sucks. If you lose players, especially established players, touch base with them and ask why they’re leaving… if it’s a work or family thing, you probably can’t do much about that. But if they say it’s a temporary thing, make sure you put them on a mailing list so they can be reminded when the next season is coming up, and perhaps any “interstitial” events your league might orchestrate. Overall, though, when your players are happy, they’re more inclined to stick around season after season, and bring friends and family with them.

Good luck!


We have been running a version of the FSPA league. I wonder if it is helpful to mix up the format? Anyone have experience in the utility/effectiveness of periodic changes to league structure/format?
How else can you motivate the player with seemingly waning interest to keep coming?

We run two seasons a year of a weekly league - around 15 weeks / season. We run one as head to head brackelope / 2 strike elimination, and the other as a more traditional league group play format.

We get some different players out for each, and some prefer one or the other. Seems to work well for us.

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Bonus points!!! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

The PPL model (8 weeks, must show for 6+) has worked really well for us in New England, and allowed us to have multiple sites per week. Without that format there is no way we have the league size we have now.

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This raises a question: does there exist a central repository for league and tournament formats? Like a wiki or something where we could submit popular/successful ones?

MCPL uses the FSPA system and they even host our results page for us(Thanks Joe)! One thing that I try to do is make sure that every player (or as many a possible) have something to play for on finals night. We do A,B,C divisions. Top 4 from each division make finals(all cash prizes). But we also do a Loser’s Lounge for the next 4 from each division. The winners of each loser’s lounge receive a small cash prize and the rest all receive a printed coupon good for one free weeks entry into the next season. That usually brings them back!

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In general you want the “Learning Center” tab on There are a number of tournament formats, and the FSPA league format – not sure why the PPL league format isn’t there, it’s pretty simple. Maybe I can beg the guy who writes the stuff for NEPL to write it up, but it’s basically this:

8 weeks, top 6 weeks count
Groups randomly created among all players each week
Scoring is 5-3-2-1 or 5-3-1 for 4 and 3 player groups
Play __ games (3 or 4, typically) to get a total for the week
Top __ make playoffs … then next __ make B Division … etc

PAPA (through @joe) hosts cool pages for either format like and which make running these league formats a cakewalk.

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Yeah, I was preparing for a bigger “marketing blitz” at the end of this month. The FSPA League Manager provides support for several common league formats (despite the name, it’s not restricted to FSPA rules, so even @cayle could use it :wink: ) and it’s pretty easy for me to incorporate different rulesets, so it can adapt to whatever your league needs. Totally free, with reliable hosting courtesy of PAPA and pair Networks. PM me if you’d be interested in using this system for your league!


I have it and am looking forward to giving it a try!

Here is a link to the Cleveland Pinball League rules, which are also based on the PPL format. We also use @joe’s excellent league management software. I really like it because it is very welcoming of new players, who will mostly compete against other new players with similar levels of competence. Only downside is that the separation by skill level doesn’t give the new peeps a chance to learn from the seasoned “pros” because they rarely see them play. Hopefully the weekly knockouts we run between seasons help make up for that a little…

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I second everybody else’s suggestion that it takes a lot of time and effort to get leagues going.

People in our league have all kinds of conflicting schedules so we’ve had trouble getting good numbers. As a result, I’ve been doing certain competitive formats that don’t require everyone to be in attendance all the time. We do a lot of machine qualification events where people get 2 chances to post a high score on a particular series of games. We do different formats each time to keep it interesting.

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Keep your league schedule flexible and fun.

The flexible schedule as well as the ability to run in multiple locations no matter who shows up has made the PPL format one that encourages growth. (170+ players last season).

It takes a lot of work and a lot of dedicated people to make a large league work. But there is nothing that says a league has to be large to be fun.

Doug, just how do you keep the schedule “fun”?

I’ll tell you this: I check Pinball Map constantly. If there’s a place near where I live that has a bunch of good pinball machines and is open to the general public, I will go there.

I know this does not apply to most people though, but a couple of minutes on that site can still bring in at least a few interested people.

Move it around to different locations if possible. Use private collections if possible. Game variety seems to be something people really like :slight_smile:

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