Monday, 7 January 2013

A Very Good Year?

Toward the end of last year, among all the draft news and player talk, came some rumblings about the season, both geared around length of the year (player health and 'wear and tear' etc) and also around making the fixture balanced and fair.
At the forefront were discussions on a 17 game season.

Richmond President Gary March weighed in (via The Age) with
Cut draw to 17 rounds: Tigers' boss
THE AFL should consider cutting the season to 17 rounds with all teams playing each other once and introducing breaks for marquee games such as the return of state of origin as a means to overhaul the draw, which remains the most glaring inequity in football, Richmond president Gary March said.

This was followed by further analysis by Rohan Connelly a few days later.
Drawn together
But does an uneven draw actually have as big an impact on how the AFL season pans out, as many critics would have us believe? I'm far from convinced.
Rohan creates another piece up to his usual high standard, and highlights the key problems (and the odd benefit) with the 17 game season.
He is also (basically) in agreement with what we had published earlier on in the season .. that the effects of the so called soft draw are marginal, at best.


A few reasons why a 17 week season wont fly are:
- Broadcast partners will not be happy having less product to fill schedules.
- Broadcast partner advertisers, league sponsors, and club sponsors will also lament the loss of promotional minutes they receive with 45 less games (5 per club) each season. A knock on effect would be the reduction in funds flowing to the AFL and clubs (and then on to players).
- The players themselves would be unhappy, if you take at face value their often quoted mantra of "we just love playing footy".
- The AFLPA, if they were interested in player health and well being, would be for a 17 round season. But if they are more focussed on players revenue generating ability, then you would expect them to oppose a shorter season (will be interesting to see where they truly stand).
Oh yes, and one other key reason...
- The FANS! Yes, YOU! Football fans want more football, more days of the week and more hours of the day (a cursory listen to SEN 1116 in the off season should help you understand that). A 22 round season is part of the social fabric of Australian society. Reducing this tears further at that already torn fabric (in respect that your team no longer plays locally for 22 weeks of the year, but sometimes only 16... for those in Melbourne,and old enough to remember VFL football, at least).
Sometimes, we at the FootyMaths Institute are quite sure that the guardians of the game, and on occasion the media, forget that the public own the game of Australian Football... take away that sense of ownership, and attendances drop, ratings decline, participation rates fall.


A final comment on the Rohan Connelly analysis is his ladder, reproduced here (without permission):

In this table, The Age has taken only those games where teams have played each other once. The methodology beyond that is unclear.
Was the first meeting only the one considered
What of the second meeting?

Assuming the first occasion only was used, then the below three random examples show discrepancies:

- Collingwood have been credited with an extra win, as they lost the second encounter with the West Coast.

-Essendon, far from sitting in seventh with 10 wins, would only have 6 wins as return matches against Carlton, Geelong, North Melbourne and Richmond were all lost.

- Fremantle would be in the finals as a late season return win over the Eagles would boost them to 11 wins.

But these are minor trivial matters in an otherwise solid piece of football journalism.


The real issue around creating a fair draw where each team plays each other twice, home and away (that we consider the definition of a 'draw', as opposed to a fixed allocation of games... i.e. 'fixture) cannot be achieved in an 18 team competition, with the current calendar restrictions as imposed.

The only close approximation is to split the 18 teams into 3 conferences of 6 teams each. But even that has its drawbacks and problems, so our soon-to-be-published approach highlights how other layers of imbalance and inequality can be removed.


So proposals for a 17 round season do not, in our opinion, make for a very good year.

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