April 16, 2018

Horse 2399 - The League Has Been Won; So Why Do We Need A Finals Series?

The bell curve for the number of goals scored by a team in football is heavily skewed. Teams are incredibly likely to score either zero or one goals and the number progressively dies off until you get the very rare examples. Until the weekend, no team had ever scored 8 goals in an A-League match and likewise there had also never been a game with a total of 10 goals in it.
To say that there was a gulf in class between Newcastle and the Central Coast is an understatement. A friend of mine stopped watching after the Jets put in their third goal and I only started listening to the match on the radio when there was five on the scoreboard, but I had no idea that three more would be added to the tally. Newcastle seemingly made passes at will, stole the ball as though it was always theirs and had more shots than an archer at Agincourt. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how the Central Coast Mariners managed to get the ball at all; much less score twice in a match which was mostly one way traffic.

The tearing asunder of the Central Coast Mariners illustrates perfectly, one of the defects of the A-League as it stands. It isn't that the Central Coast Mariners are bad because every league will have teams that are better than others but that if you look at the other end of the A-League table, you find the story reversed almost exactly.
The Central Coast Mariners who will remain nailed to the bottom of the A-League table are 13 points behind the team in 6th place, the Brisbane Roar. Up at the very top of the A-League table are Sydney FC who are 14 points ahead of Newcastle in 2nd place. This is the utterly maddening thing, the team in 6th who are closer in the number of points to the team which is not only dead last but so much of a donkey of a side that they can have eight goals knocked past them, still has a chance at winning the A-League because of the finals system which disregards the league results entirely.
I have never been convinced as to what the benefit of a finals system actually is, much less why it is absolutely imperative that we have them in Australia. If Sydney FC have comprehensively beaten all and sundry and this is evidenced by the league table, then why should the team in 6th who hasn't pulled a smaller gap from themselves and dead last, be able to steal away the title of champions from the team on top who has empirically demonstrated through the results, that it is the best. If anyone other than Sydney FC wins the A-League, I will be thoroughly miffed at the stupidity of the finals system.

I really really hate the term "Minor Premiership". If you've played every other team multiple times and on balance have won, then you should be crowned champions. In most football championships around the world, you have a league and a knockout cup for a reason. In a motor racing championship, you have a points tally based on the positions from every race and at the end, the one who has the most points wins.
The reason why you get playoffs seasons in the United States especially and at major tournaments like the World Cup or the European Champions League, is that you have multiple groups which all play for the right to enter the finals system. The United States in particular has various divisions and/or conferences which are usually organised by regions; which is why in say American Football, the Superbowl is the championship game between the AFC Champions and NFC Champions.
The A-League in stark contrast, does this idiotic thing which we always want to do in Australia, which is play out the league and then have a playoffs system, not against another conference or division but against itself. I mean if we apply logic properly, then by rights Sydney FC which has won the league should be playing Sydney FC for the A-League Championship because it won the league. Anything else is stupid.

I still to this day think that the greatest game of football was the very last game of the season between Arsenal and Liverpool in 1989. The match had been delayed because of the immediate crisis following the Hillsborough disaster and so it was played after the FA Cup that year. The result of Arsenal 2 - Liverpool 0, gave Arsenal the title of First Division Champions, not because they had beaten Liverpool once, but because at the end of the season, they had amassed an equal number of points and not even because they had a better goal difference but because they had scored more goals in the season. Arsenal and Liverpool ended on the same number of points and it would have been utter stupidity to have a finals series after that.
The argument which will inevitably follow is that the A-League only has ten teams but that's not really an argument for anything. The AFL has 18 teams and also goes through the stupidity of a finals series, as does the NFL, which is equally stupid for doing so. If you have a smaller number of teams, then simply play everyone both home and away twice. If that's what they do in Scotland and it works very well, then what's so heinous about doing it here? What's the need for a finals series at all?

Just award Sydney the Premier's Plate and be done with it. We have a champion; everyone has played everyone else thrice; everything else is nonsense.

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