Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Fixture Reform- Detail [2/5]

In our previous post, we described the principles we consider key for reform in the AFL, and also a summary of how to achieve some equity. Now, to the detail.

In our proposal, we suggest splitting the 18 teams into 3 conferences, based on ladder position where teams are seeded. Each conference contains 2 of the previous seasons top teams, two mid-table teams and two of the bottom teams. It also includes season-on-season re-drawing of the conferences to ensure ongoing balance.
And for arguments sake, why not name the conferences after three of footballs most famous names from the three key footballing states; Barassi, Farmer and Robran conferences.

In separating the teams into conferences, the previous seasons ladder is used, and a seeding system is employed to balance the split. The seeding we have chosen [1] will see the following teams in each group.

     Barassi Conference:      1st, 6th, 7th, 12th, 13th and 18th.

     Farmer Conference:       2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th and 17th.

     Robran Conference:       3rd, 4th, 9th, 10th, 15th and 16th.

This seeding selection provides each group with an evenly selected number - two from the top 6 teams, two from the mid-table 6 teams and two from the bottom 6 teams. Also, adding each of the above ladder positions produces the same number – 57.

So for the 2013 season, the ladder from the 2012 season would be used to split the teams into the conferences as at right.

In some instances, conferences will be made up of teams spread all over Australia, while others will be more localized.
To overcome any sense of bias in travel, the inter-conference games can be arranged so that those teams that don’t travel so much in their conference will play more 'on the road' games to compensate and balance out travel commitments.

As before, the only ‘fixing’ of this draw is to ensure teams play 11 times at home, and at least 5 times interstate.

In the instance above, the following is immediately detectable:

     - there are two interstate teams in one conference, and three in the other two conferences.
     - the two Adelaide teams are drawn together, but the two West Australian teams are not together.
     - similarly, the two Sydney and Queensland teams are also not drawn together, and
     - the scope for Melbourne 'blockbusters' is disrupted as Collingwood won't have 2 games against Essendon, Richmond, Geelong and Hawthorn.
     - There is still 2 matches for Collingwood against Carlton and St Kilda, and we propose that scheduling of the draw remain flexible enough that the Anzac Day game can still be reserved for Collingwood and Essendon.

This will alarm some AFL folk, as it has taken away some of the current mandated blockbusters, but as before, we think the AFL is now in a position to no longer lean on those crutches, and to let the scheduling process become just marginally more free.

1. An alternate split would be to have the groups split into every third team, i.e. 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 15, 17 and 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18.
Further, you could ballot the teams into groups of 6 (top six, mid six and bottom six) and then draw two from each pot into conferences. This would be eminently televisable, image Bruce welcoming viewers to the "Melbourne Bitter Conference Draw, live from Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast" 

Teams are drawn to play each other in their own conference twice, home and away. This is 10 rounds of the year (6 teams = 1 team plays 5 opponents, home and away = 10 games).
They also play other teams in other conferences once each (each team plays 12 other teams once each = 12 games).

This results in a 22 game per team season, just as we had in 2012, and it can be stretched out to 23 rounds (with byes) if the AFL desire it.

A simple 22 round draw is as per right (click to expand) based on the above split for 2013.
It has been worked to include the 10 games played inside conferences (with the yellow bar along side), and the 12 inter-conference games (with the green along side).

It is an example only so please don't worry if any team has too many or not enough home games, travel etc. That issue can be solved by folk who have more time to work through that issue (and also get paid for it).
The key point if you work through it is that each team plays inside its conference twice and outside once.

Further, if AFL HQ wish to move about the games to fit particular days of the year, that can be done as well.
Given the Anzac Day 'tradition', and the desire of clubs to play a particular team on the opening round (...etc, etc), it is easily adaptable for those games to get shuffled about.
Equally, we have bookmarked the inter-conference games in the middle of the season, with intra-conference games either side for reasons of simplicity. Again, it is at the AFL's discretion to determine when and where games are played.

It is worth remembering that the conferences above will change year on year, so the mix of teams in conferences, as well as opportunity for blockbusters will alter year on year.
So while some teams wont get the big matches some years, the wheel will turn to produce those chances in later seasons.

We will cover how the Finalists are selected in our next post.
A later post will then cover how the Draft and these conferences work together, and also the mechanics to the season-on-season changes to the conferences.

At the end of the day, under our system, the power of the scheduling and allocation of games is partly held by the AFL, but are mostly divested as the ladder from the previous season sets the conferences and the number of games to be played.

If the AFL and the clubs themselves are thinking of what is best for football, y will also need to divest themselves of self-interest as well to fully embrace this concept.

For the good of the game.


  1. Just a short comment. I think there are several points to be made about conferences but I'd prefer to read your whole piece. One thing on blockbusters though.

    They are and aren't needed. They are big games because they are between big clubs. If A and B are big and C and D are small, then A vs. B will create a big crowd and C vs. D will not, but they are also the sum of their fan-bases (more or less), so the total crowd will be much the same with A vs. C and B vs. D.

    But that only applies to home games, or at least games in those team's city. Don't under-estimate the value of local derbies purely from the point of view of allowing people to see their team. If Adelaide plays in a different conference to Port fans can see 11 home games. If they play in the same conference it is 12. Not a big difference, but still better. And yes, it is more money, but more money often comes from serving customers. The league has already heavily eroded the number of fixtures fans can attend to watch their team by inter-state expansion; it isn't in anyone's interest to make it worse.

    1. Agree that lack of derbies takes away an opportunity to see your team live. That said, the idea is to take away rigging of the draw, and if that means in a particular season there is no derby, then so be it. Likewise Melb-based big games... no Coll-Carl match twice? Tough. The draw is clean, transparent.

      The only exception is where clubs might 'conspire' to play dead at the end of a season, with the aim of aligning into the same conference the following year... which entirely may happen.
      A very different sort of tanking, and possible can of Pandora's worms!
      Post 5 on Friday has another credible alternate system.

  2. Something you no doubt thought of - there will still be comments about 'conference of death' if one or two teams make a massive improvement. Still overall it should lessen the inequities.

    1. You may be right, but if each conference has 2 top 6 teams, 2 mid 6 teams and 2 bottom 6 teams, they should be balanced.
      I can see where they would be called 'conference of death' during the season if a few teams really get playing well.

      Even then, if you look at part 3 today, if 4 teams in one conference play exceptionally well, then the finals allocation system still could see all of them through. Would be a very tough group to have the 5th best in a conference miss a finals spot.