Study finds AFL equalisation policy ineffective

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Australian Football League (AFL) equalisation policy has been ineffective in stemming the growing imbalance between teams in the league, according to University of Adelaide researchers.

Over the last 100 years the AFL has implemented a suite of guidelines aimed at increasing competitiveness in the league, known collectively as the equalisation policy.

In the wake of recent concerns about the effectiveness of the policy, a team of researchers at the University of Adelaide's School of Economics conducted a detailed evaluation of the equalisation policy.

"Of the eight primary interventions under the equalisation policy, only two were helpful in keeping match margins in check. The other six were found to be ineffective at balancing teams," says Dr Virginie Masson.

Dr Masson says that match margins have been steadily widening over the last 100 years.

"In the period 1897 to 1914, prior to the introduction of the equalisation policy, the average match margin was 27.52 points. As the interventions were implemented, the match margin gradually increased until it reached 36.41 points in the period 1985 to 2009," she says.

"We used three different statistical methods which all point to the same conclusion: games with relatively small margins are becoming less frequent."

According to Dr Masson, of the current interventions in place, only the guidelines around minimum spending requirements on players' wages and priority draft picks seem to be aiding competitiveness in the league.

"The majority of the current equalisation policy guidelines, including the team salary cap, the reverse order draft and league revenue sharing are not helping to create an even playing field in AFL - match margins are now wider than ever," she says.

"Based on these findings, I believe it would be timely for the AFL to scrutinise its current equalisation strategy."


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Dr Virginie Masson
School of Economics
The University of Adelaide
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