Myriam on a proposal to make AFL rankings better match reality:
If you watch sport, what you want to see is a good contest. You want to see the best sides progress. But you also want them to keep playing fiercely, even if they’re ahead. You don’t want complacent teams: you want a good show.
In the Australian Football League, these principles are encouraged through the playoffs. The eight highest-ranked teams in a season go on to play each other. To help the best teams win, the top four have the chance to lose a game and progress, whereas the lowest-ranked of the eight do not. Also, home advantage is award to whichever team is highest ranked in the playoffs.
But the system which decides which eight teams make it into the playoffs could be improved, a La Trobe economist argues.
In 2010, Liam Lenton from La Trobe and Niven Winchester from the University of Otago published a paper arguing that giving bonus points to teams in the case of large margins of victory, or in the case of narrow losses, would give a better indication as to the relative ranking of the teams in the AFL. The final paper is behind a paywall, but its working draft is available here.
In the year it was published, the paper wouldn’t have had much effect on the ranking of the final eight. But this year, it would (see graph below). Allocating bonus points for large wins and narrow losses under the scheme proposed would see Collingwood would get bumped from fourth spot to seventh, while Geelong would just make it into the top four from its current sixth spot.
The paper proposed two bonus points for teams that win by more than 27 points, or those that lose by less than 26 points, in addition to the 4-2-0 points allocation for win-draw-loss. Each game, six points would be allocated, with the final two being split either between the winning or losing team, depending on the margin.
“In cases of games where the margin is around that five-goal mark . . . currently what you have is teams take their best players off the ground. They know the match is won with five to seven minutes left and they want to keep those players in cotton wool,” Lenton told The Australian Financial Review. “If there was something riding on it you could expect to see that team try and maintain that intensity for the last remaining minutes.”
Sports such as Super Rugby and World Cup Rugby already use bonus points. The paper says no sport which has introduced a bonus point system has had reason to revoke it.
HT: Australian Financial Review. Chart is from La Trobe Uni.