From Competitive Balance to Match Attractiveness in Rugby Union
Professional sports leagues aim to provide attractive contests that maximise fan interest. Literature on the demand for professional sport suggests that fans derive utility from identifying with teams and from the quality of contests, which depends on uncertainty of outcome and demonstration of the skills required to excel at the game. Measures of the attractiveness of sports contests should incorporate these two dimensions of quality. This paper proposes measures of the attractiveness of rugby union matches corresponding to Newton’s gravity equation. These measures proxy the extent of uncertainty of outcome by the points margin between the participating teams and demonstration of playing skills by the total number of points scored in a match, respectively. Using hypothetical match scores, the paper shows that the most accurate of the proposed measures uniquely identify degrees of “attractiveness”. A comparison of major rugby leagues for the period 2006 to 2008 suggests that the Guinness Premiership provided the most attractive matches, followed by the Magners League and the Super 14.
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