Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Fixture Countdown

There are only 9 more days until the AFL once again dominates the media landscape with the release of the fixture for 2015 (scheduled Oct 30... 5 days before some sort of a horse race, apparently).

Which of course means all the journos will be writing and tweeting about 'who got the best draw' and '[club] always gets a soft draw' and of course [club that never leaves the MCG] travels the least'.

If the AFL is to follow its proposed plan, we should see the schedule aligned so that the top teams of 2014 (Hawthorn, Sydney, Fremantle, Geelong, Port Adelaide and North Melbourne) play each other twice.
Those not so brilliant in 2014 are also proposed to play each other twice (Carlton, the Bulldogs, Brisbane, GWS, Melbourne and St Kilda), and the middle 6 also dance about twide too.

This is being pitched as producing a fairer result for teams, in that it will reduce blow-outs etc, as well as maintain interest in the season.

While having the previous seasons cellar dwellers not play powerhouses twice, but instead play among them selves looks fairer (on the day at least) it is entirely not a fair fixture. To be properly fair, each team should play against the same level of opponents every year. Ultimately, this is best achieved by the old 'play each other home and away twice' rule. But that is totally impractical in an 18 team competition.

Regular readers will know that we have proposed a [lengthy] scenario that is fair and transparent, and has teams play against similarly weighted opponents home and away (and against all others once) in a three conference system.

The key component is not the introduction of conferences, but the distribution on teams that competitors paly against. As Troy Wheatley correctly points out in the comments on our previous post, the fairness factor in the model doesn't need the conference element.

A fair 2015 fixture would involve home and away games played between the teams in the three columns below, with additional games played against teams outside of that alignment.
6North Melbourne5Port Adelaide4Fremantle
7Essendon8Richmond9West Coast
12Gold Coast11Collingwood10Adelaide
13Carlton14W Bulldogs/FFC15Brisbane Lions
18St Kilda17Melbourne16GWS

Also as mentioned previously, this is an unusual allotment, given Geelong is the only Vic-based team n the last column. It therefore travels interstate 5 times.
This now becomes the benchmark for the future - all Vic-based teams should travel 5 times interstate.

So looking at the above, and taking a few teams at random, lets look at where those teams play.
First Geelong:

The above shows a POSSIBLE fixture scenario. There are 11 home and 11 away games, with 5 of those away games interstate for this Vic-based club (italicized for easy reference). Also split such that the teams played twice are in the left column of each home/ away list.

Also, to round out the distribution, if you tally all the numbers under home or away, you get 111 (each of two)... so the level of competition Geelong faces home and away is the same.
9West Coast5Port Adelaide9West Coast6North Melbourne
15Brisbane Lions12Gold Coast15Brisbane Lions11Collingwood
16GWS13Carlton16GWS14W Bulldogs/FFC
18St Kilda17Melbourne

And we can run scenarios for other teams in Victoria, along the same lines too.
St Kilda:
St Kilda
6North Melbourne5Port Adelaide6North Melbourne4Fremantle
7Essendon8Richmond7Essendon9West Coast
12Gold Coast11Collingwood12Gold Coast10Adelaide
13Carlton15Brisbane Lions13Carlton14W Bulldogs/FFC

Again, 5 interstate trips as italicized, and 11 home games. Again the numbers under under home or away tally up to be 96 in both. Balanced scheduling.
(yeah that 96 is different to the 111 for Geelong as obviously the teams own ranks are different).

And finally, lets look at Collingwood and give them 5 interstate journeys.
5Port Adelaide3Geelong5Port Adelaide6North Melbourne
8Richmond7Essendon8Richmond9West Coast
14W Bulldogs/FFC12Gold Coast14W Bulldogs/FFC10Adelaide
18St Kilda15Brisbane Lions

A neat 5 trips away to foreign lands to spread the Magpie love, and the balance in the schedule of all the numbers adding up to 103 in both home and away columns.

Now these three random selections were just plucked out and determined last night. It may not always work that you can balance out the numbers so well, but in this instance it is a good result.

And in the end... isn't that what the AFL should be striving for? 
Balance among teams and how they play.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


As mentioned on twitter, there seems to be only each years draft results on the internet, but no full list of all drafts in the one easy reference list.

So we scraped the content and compiled this spreadsheet on Google Sheets.

Its a work in progress and still messy, but its a start.


PS... If you know anything about spreadsheets, use the filters in the header row to select only the draft picks you need.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Alternate Reality - 2014

Way back (...waaay back) at the start of 2013, we posted our solution to the unfairness in the AFL draw. A solution to the perennial problem that teams were not playing each other home and away, and that some teams were getting soft draws.

The simple fix may seem complex at first, but is really not that difficult to understand. Its about dividing the eighteen teams into 3 conferences of six teams each. The full detail is in the link above for those that have not read it yet.

Put simply, our three conferences;
ARE NOT ABOUT splitting the 18 teams as per the AFL proposed system of top 6 to play each other twice, Middle 6 to play each other twice, and Bottom 6 to play each other twice
... because this is installing an inherent bias in to the system.
IS ABOUT splitting the teams so that each team is in a group with 2 teams from the top 6, 2 teams from the middle 6, and 2 teams from the bottom 6.
... as this means all teams get to play teams of equal ability twice. 

It is also done in such a way so that the structure and method is clear and transparent.

The proposal is to take the the 18 teams and split them as per
Conference 1:   1st, 6th, 7th, 12th, 13th and 18th.
Conference 2:   2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th and 17th.
Conference 3:   3rd, 4th, 9th, 10th, 15th and 16th.
   *  note: add the ladder positions together for each conference for totals of 57 in each.

The three conferences are generated so that each team inside a conference plays against its conference opponents twice (home and away) and they also play outside their conference once each. These inter-conference games also allow for addressing fixture irregularities such as interstate travel balancing etc. 

So to apply the proposition above to the 2015 fixture, we take the 2014 ladder (at right) and split the teams as per the description above.

Note also, that we use the ladder at the end of the home and away series, as this is the most balanced outcome of the year.

Adjustments to ladder positions from the finals series are not included as (obviously) not all teams have the opportunity to adjust their ladder position.

So into the groups (and to play each other twice):
6North Melbourne5Port Adelaide4Fremantle
7Essendon8Richmond9West Coast
12Gold Coast11Collingwood10Adelaide
13Carlton14W Bulldogs/FFC15Brisbane Lions
18St Kilda17Melbourne16GWS

Which means, by our proposed system, for 2015:
... the Western Derby is on! Home and away, but
... there is only one SA Showdown, one Q-Clash and one Sydney Derby.
... only one Essendon v Collingwood game and one Carlton v Collingwood clash.

But there are two Richmond v Collingwood games, and two Essendon v Carlton games.

The interesting fallout of this years shuffle of teams into conferences is that we have Geelong as the only Victorian team in a pool, and Port Adelaide are the only non-Victorian team in another conference.

As before, this looks like an imbalance in travel requirements, but as teams play another 10 games outside of their conference, the apparent imbalance is redressed.
In the above scenario, Geelong plays 5 away games interstate, so is scheduled no other interstate games from the other 12 games they need to play
Also the Victorian clubs that have only Port Adelaide as an interstate member of their conference are required to have another 4 away games in other states to balance their allotment.

While the above hinders the AFL's directive to generate as much cash as possible (sorry) satisfy its obligations to is broadcast partners (sorry) schedule the most attractive games during the year and maximize attendances, it does ;
- balance the draw,
- give each lower team a chance to play a top team home and away, to increase their exposure and develop their brand,
- not create a 'lower clubs relegated to battles amongst themselves' ghetto,
- create all 18 teams as 'equal partners' in the struggle for the premiership.

The underlying tenet that this system has is it's transparency. It can be reproduced year on year, with an amalgam ladder of all 18 teams, and a reshuffle of the conferences based on that amalgam.
And it can be done by anyone at home, or in their workplace on the Monday after the last round.

When the dust settles on the AFL home and away system, every fan / 'stakeholder' can instantly work out where there team will be conferenced next year, and who their chief rivals will be.
There is no waiting for the decrees from AFL HQ on how they intend to fixture while maintaining the gerrymander that sees fixed blockbusters and derbies.

The AFL is the biggest, most dominant sporting code in Australia. At its core it is inherently unfair in its dealings with it 18 constituent parties, preferring instead to generate staggering revenues.

It is now strong enough that it should not sell its soul for even more astronomical revenues. It needs to become fairer, and demonstrably so.
This is one step in that direction.