Competitive balance: a scenario in which every team has an equal chance of winning a championship; one team is not dominating the league; in a perfectly balanced competition, every team’s win-lose percentage would equal .500
In my ‘Best of the Week’ post from 12 January, I told you all about a new blog I found called Footy Maths and shared an article called ‘A Very Good Year?’ There were lots of interesting ideas in there that I’ve been thinking about.
In the article, the author talks about why a 17 round season won’t work (NOTE: they say it’s 17 weeks, but I assume teams will still get a BYE so I think it’ll be 18 weeks, 17 rounds). He then briefly mentions that what could work is dividing the league into 3 divisions of 6 teams each and says even that has its downfalls. Which it does. they said they would talk about it in a future post but I am impatient and I want to talk about doing it my way.
I really liked the suggestion that the league be split into 3 divisions. I assume they meant clubs would play those in their division twice, which results in a 22 round season (23 weeks, most likely). The problem is: how? If they were do divide geographically, they’d get this (I assume)
Let’s look at this, shall we?
First, looking at the non-play aspects, dividing geographically means attendance would probably increase since there would be less travel for people. It could also mean better rivalries since you’re playing against the same teams for the top spots each year. However, while Aussies aren’t known to be big scrappers (especially AFL fans) maybe encouraging rivalries (especially for those Collingwood fans) isn’t such a good idea.
Looking at the way the actual season would play out… this is where I see a problem. The number of strong and weak teams in each division is relatively equal. But when the talent is spread out, it is very likely that certain teams would dominate the league. If this were to be the structure in 2013, for example, the East division has obvious winners – there is no doubt that Hawthorn and Sydney would steamroll GWS, GC and Brisbane. In the west, Adelaide and West Coast would crush Port and the Bulldogs. In the Central division, things could get a bit interesting since Collingwood and Geelong were near the bottom of the eight, but odds are they would come out on top over Melbourne and Carlton. And there you have it – your top teams from 2012 would be on top once again.
Since the AFL has devices in place, such at the reverse order draft, then it is possible that teams improve and rise to the top of their division. There would probably be a very obvious pattern: teams such as GWS, Gold Coast and Port lose for a few years, get a bunch of great draft picks (hopefully!) and move to the top. After a few years, the teams who had moved to the bottom will move to the top again… and it’s all one big cycle. That’s no fun. And it’s not interesting.
This division would be difficult because the clubs closest in quality (meaning they are closest on the ladder) are in Melbourne making it more difficult for Melbourne clubs to get into the eight. This could be a good thing because it limits the number of Melbourne-based clubs that are in the finals, and that specific division will be relatively balanced in terms of competition. The teams in the East, by contrast, have two expansion teams making it easier for the other four to move up in the ladder, meaning Sydney and Hawthorn would be in the finals for at least for the next couple of years. This would be poor competitive balance.
Most leagues strive for competitive balance since one team dominating the league is bad for attendance, sponsorship, and fan morale. If we assume that the AFL also strives for competitive balance then this is a poor model. A good model would be where each team has the opportunity to do well, they all have the opportunity to get into the eight, and they all have the opportunity to win half their games (see definition of competitive balance at the top. That would be a good model… and I know what model should be used. Are you ready? (Deep breathe)
Split the league into thirds… by their ladder position from the previous year.
Yes. That’s right. Is your mind blown? Good. I’ll let that sit for a while and next week, I’ll tell you why this would work. This post is already ridiculously long.
(Oh, by the way, if this goes into effect, then it’s time for the AFL to give in and admit they need me)