Tuesday, 7 October 2014

May I take your order?

Anyone who's watched Match Of The Day regularly has probably complained about Match Of The Day almost as often.  Almost all football fans seem to be convinced that the BBC's flagship football programme is biased against their team - and one of the most common complaints is about the order in which the matches are shown.  When Norwich City were in the Premier League, we always seemed to be the last game on Match Of The Day, and supporters felt this was being done deliberately.  Well, I know how to put this issue to bed, once-and-for-all…

Instead of leaving the running order up to a real person, whose judgement can be called into question, there should be a formula for deciding this, based on nothing but cold, hard facts.  The best way is to link the order to position in the league table at the time.  I have done a mock-up of this for last Saturday's Match Of The Day, so you can see how this would work.

There were six games played on Saturday:

  • Manchester City vs. Aston Villa
  • Hull vs. Crystal Palace
  • Leicester vs. Burnley
  • Liverpool vs. West Brom
  • Sunderland vs. Stoke
  • Swansea vs. Newcastle
And this was the Premier League table on Saturday, as Match Of The Day went on-air:

So, my formula would take an aggregate league position (ALP), by calculating the mean average of the two teams' standings in the table.  (For example, if the top two teams in the table were to play each other, their ALP would be 1.5 [1st place + 2nd place, divided by two] and so this would be the first game shown.)

Under this system, Saturday's Match Of The Day running order would therefore be as follows:
  • ALP 4.5 - Manchester City vs. Aston Villa
  • ALP 9.5 - Liverpool vs. West Brom
  • ALP 11 - Swansea vs. Newcastle
  • ALP 11 - Hull vs. Crystal Palace
  • ALP 13 - Sunderland vs. Stoke
  • ALP 14 - Leicester vs. Burnley
(As you can see, two games have identical ALPs - of the four teams involved in these two games, Swansea are the highest in the table, so their match with Newcastle gets shown first.)
Oh, but what if a game between two teams lower down the table is really exciting?!
…you might be saying.

Well, that doesn't matter!  When the formula is in control, the order is what it is - it isn't affected by subjectivity, and the teams whose matches are shown first have earnt that right through their previous good results, so there can be no complaints.  And besides, if the 'exciting' games aren't always right at the start, there's more chance of everyone watching all the way to the end.

The BBC need to implement my system of ordering matching matches now.  They will thank me.


Anonymous said...

You need to look up the meaning of the words 'aggregate', 'mean' and 'average'. Hint 'mean average' doesn't' exist and the aggregate of 1 and 2 isn't 1.5... Think what aggregate score means!

Running order is based on more exciting games, shocking results or upsets. Under your system the running order would be dominated by the top clubs. What does it matter if your club is or isn't on first? What exactly is the big deal?

Ben S said...

I agree with the principle outlined in the first comment: you may well think that a higher league standing 'earns' the right to a more prominent place in the running order, but the reality is that most fans would rather see the most exciting games.

Even if we assume (wrongly, I believe), that the higher placed teams should be shown first, you are assuming a linear relationship between league standing and the extent to which a team 'deserves' to be shown first.

Look at it this way: a game between any of the top four and the side in 18th would have a lower ALP than a middle-of-the-road match between the sides in 8th and 9th.

Rather than promoting games featuring the top teams, you are actually going to favour mid-table clashes, which arguably are more likely to be dull and in any case will tend to have far less at stake in terms of European qualification/survival. If you were going to use something like ALP, on the basis of fairness based on previous performance (rather than the quality of the match), you should weight it slightly to favour the top teams, perhaps on a scale where the top team receives a score of -1 and the bottom team a score of 22.

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