Evaluating an alternative draft pick allocation policy to reduce ‘tanking’ in the Australian Football League

2018-04-09T12:13:13Z (GMT) by Liam J. Lenten Aaron Smith Noel Boys
This article considers an adjustment to the method of determining the order of draft picks in the Australian Football League (AFL). Rather than pure reverse order based on the end-of-season ladder (standings), an alternative draft-pick allocation (henceforth called ‘ADPA’) policy is proposed and evaluated. It holds that the draft-pick order rule shall give the top pick the team eliminated first (i.e. after fewest matches played) from the finals series (playoffs), and the remainder in order of elimination. Employing a quasi-natural experiment using data obtained from a sample of 2288 regular-season games from 1997 to 2009, the ADPA policy produced an estimated 21.7% improvement in an already-eliminated team's probability of winning late-season matches. A review of the business case underpinning the ADPA reveals a series of benefits for the AFL. In addition to improving fans’ late-season engagement, the policy would offer a fairer system of draft distributions that would augment league equalisation and enhance the AFL's integrity principles.