Maximise Attendances with Economically-Designed Fixture

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I ‘dropped’ (as they say these days) my latest op ed in the Australian Financial Review (today, Thursday 7 April), called: “Clash of Rivals will Boost Flagging Football Crowds” on p.47 of the hard copy. The link is here, but if you find it gated for you, then e-mail me to request a copy.

It builds on a paper that is forthcoming to be published soon, with Dr Jordi McKenzie (Macquarie University) and Stephan Lenor (University of Heidelberg, Germany).

In a good day all-round media-wise, I was also interviewed on ABC Radio Melbourne (774 AM) with Jon Faine regarding this research. Audio of the interview is available here for one week (go  straight to 57:15).

We believe that using our mathematical optimisation technique, we could increase AFL attendance by 100,000 spectators a year via a simple reform of how the fixture is determined (It could also do a similar thing for the NRL). This change would not even compromise the fixture with respect to any of its existing constraints. Over to you, League officials!!!

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Economics Decodes ‘Hottest 100’ Musical Tastes

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Rock’n’roll dreams do come true in the annual Triple J ‘Hottest 100’; and there is actually quite a bit of potential for economic analysis from it.

This potential was covered in my opinion piece, which ran in the Australian Financial Review (today, Thursday 21 January), titled: “Rock’n’roll the Winner in Triple-J Hottest 100 Count” on p.35. The results of the 2015 poll will be revealed on Tuesday (Australia Day).

For the record, here is the list of 2015 songs I voted for, which shows just how out-of-touch I am with the alt/indie scene nowadays. Here’s hoping that you enjoy the countdown (if, like me, that’s what you’re into).

Art vs Science – Tired of Pretending
Birds of Tokyo – Anchor
Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best
Courtney Barnett – Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party
Meg Mac – Never Be
The Rubens – Hoops
Rudimental – Never Let You Go
Tame Impala – ‘Cause I’m a Man
The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face
Zafareli – Withdrawals

Brownlow Medal Data Uncovers Biases in Voting Decisions

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I had another opinion piece run in the Australian Financial Review (today, Thursday 24 September), titled: “Brownlow Voting Biased Against the Ineligible” on p.51.

The key thrust is that AFL players already suspended earlier in the season (thus ineligible to win the Brownlow Medal – the best and fairest player award) poll significantly less votes than their still-eligible counterparts.

It is a timely piece in advance of this year’s vote count next Monday night.

I hope the ‘footy-heads’ among you enjoy this one!

Ashes Combatants Understand Gains from International Trade in Coaches (AFR Piece)

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Another opinion piece of mine appeared in today’s edition of the Australian Financial Review (Thursday 11 June), titled: “Free Trade in Coaches Gives All Teams an Edge” (link gated), on p.51. Alternatively, if you don’t have the hard copy, feel free to e-mail me a request.

It draws analogies between generalities of the virtues of free-trade (internationally), and the specific labour market for foreign coaches of national sports teams.

This is kinda topical in Australian media circles at the moment because of Australian Trevor Bayliss recently being appointed coach of England ahead of the Ashes (starting in 4 weeks time). Happy reading!

RBA Rate Decisions More Powerful in Smaller Doses (AFR Piece)

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The Australian Financial Review ran an opinion piece of mine (with my colleague, Jan Libich) that appeared in this morning’s edition (Tuesday 7 April), titled: “RBA Medicine Should be Dispensed in Smaller Doses” on p.43 (some of you will find the link to be gated)…or e-mail me a request if you cannot access it any other way.

It discusses an idea of ours to improve the impact of central bank interest-rate setting in Australia, which is to reduce the increment of change to the cash target rate (the main monetary policy instrument), from 25 to 10 basis points. Such a change would incur a relatively small adjustment cost, while providing a good return on extra ‘signalling power’. Read the piece to get more detail.

Social Science Showing Super Results on Anti-Doping Policy Idea

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I had another op ed piece appear in the Australian Financial Review today, Monday 9 February: “Right Incentives may Keep Sports Industry Clean” (gated link). The piece is on p.35.

In it, I continue to build the case for ‘conditional superannuation’ as a possible supplementary anti-doping policy. Even though the war against doping may never be well-and-truly won; this idea remains a nice and intuitive incentive-based mechanism, which may very well produce a significant fall in the incidence of doping in sport.

The ‘REAL’ Winners of the Asian Cup

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The green-and-gold heaven that was the AFC Asian Cup Final (or as I referred to it, Confederations Cup qualifier) was undoubtedly a watershed moment for the World game in Australia, one of the few remaining markets where football is not (yet, at least) the number one sport. The 2-1 (ET) match was indeed a thriller, and I’ll take it; even though a penalty shoot-out would have better reinforced our case for penalties before extra-time.

However, this post is intended to make a very different point – one about the more general matter of cost-benefit analysis of the whole event itself. Us sports economists of the academic variety are generally united in the view that typically, use of public funds to subsidise bids for a major sports event, as well as to run the event itself (if the bid is successful), is inherently profligate. Refer to my 2009 (Australian Financial Review) characterisation of a case in point – the colossal waste of $46.5 million of Federal government funds on the FFA’s 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bid. In that case, like so many others, the ‘boosters’ of the event tried to convince us that the economic benefits would be huge (they are always much smaller), while the costs (and timelines) invariably blow out. This is a lesson that is still most freshly (and bitterly) experienced by ordinary Brazilian citizens.

This case had a few differences to the usual story, however. Other potential suitors to the AFC for hosting rights dropped out of the race during 2010, leaving Australia as the sole bidder – the formal announcement on 5 January 2011 came as no surprise to anybody (and, curiously in hindsight, received scant media coverage). The next day on ABC News Breakfast (skip to 6:05), I was actually quite sanguine about the economics of hosting it.

The reason, as I saw it then, was as follows: unlike the World Cup, not having to compete with other ‘buyers’ for the event, Australia was effectively bestowed as hosts for a low ‘price’ – without having to promise so much (comparative to other such cases) in the way of upgraded facilities and the like. It also meant that the AFC as the ‘seller’ was forced to accept that lower price. This did not stop the Organising Committee from trying to provoke various state governments to bid against each other to host the matches themselves. It is no coincidence that Perth and Adelaide were excluded from the venue list – the WA and SA governments declining to pay – despite each being much bigger media markets than both Canberra and Newcastle combined.

So, I surmise that the REAL winners of the Asian Cup were Australian taxpayers, who in a rare example, paid a relatively modest amount for the hosting rights for this event!!! Furthermore, given that the hosts prevailed in a thrilling Final, the sporting gods delivered them even more bang for their tax dollar buck than they might have expected.

A final word of caution: if in the aftermath of this success, you are inclined to believe that Australia should once again throw its hat in the ring for World Cup hosting rights in 2026 or beyond, hold your horses. The last decade has taught us that Australia should stick to the smaller-scale international football events that it can host well and economically. Other examples would include the Women’s World Cup, Youth (U/20) World Cup or Club World Cup. Let us allow other countries – the largest national and continental media markets (or even those with massive reserves of oil) – to fight with each other for the ‘privilege’ of grossly overpaying for the World Cup.