Like many professional sports leagues, the Australian Football League (AFL) operates an unbalanced schedule in which each team plays other teams an unequal number of times (once or twice) each season. This has led the AFL purposefully to schedule certain matches to be repeated each season with the remaining fixtures mostly randomly allocated. We explore the efficacy of this policy by estimating a fixed (rivalry) effects hedonic demand model for within-season AFL matches. Estimated rivalry effects are imputed into a binary integer program minimisation that provides an optimal profile of rematches against which we consider recent historic scheduling behaviour. As expected, rivalry effects are greatest for the large-market Melbourne ‘troika’ teams, which provides partial support for the AFL’s maintained policy. However, there exists scope for increasing aggregate attendance in the unbalanced part of the season by further attention to selection of rematches. We also observe some decline in interest of the second within-season meetings of popular troika teams and a rise in popularity of the intrastate derbies. Finally, we compare our results to alternative scheduling arrangements for the unbalanced part of the season.
Review of Industrial Organization – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 10, 2015
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