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The Numbers Game
By Dave Green

They don't get much easier that that!

The new league scoring system has met the usual mixed response that greets any new speedway regulation. Some can see the benefits in rewarding narrow failure, others don't feel that rewarding any kind of failure is justified.

For those that have missed the rule change, the details are as follows:

Home loss by any amount of points - 0 (match points)
Home draw - 1
Home win by between 1 and 6 points - 2
Home win by 7 points or more - 3
Away loss by 7 points or more - 0
Away loss by 6 points or less - 1
Away draw - 2
Away win by between 1 and 6 points - 3
Away win by 7 points or more - 4

So much better than just awarding two points for a win, or so we're told.

Although this article is not intended to be a critique of the new scoring system, two things are guaranteed:

1) Before March is out, one or more promoters will be quoted in Speedway Star stating how ridiculous the new system is.

2) It will be quietly dropped before the 2010 season.

This bizarre new system is just the latest attempt to turn speedway into a sport wholly dictated by numbers, I've actually begin to suspect that Carol Vorderman may be on the BSPA management committee, after all, she must be doing something with her afternoons now.

We've always had race points - three for a win, two for second etc. I'd accept that this is largely unavoidable if we're going to have team competition - though a single point could be awarded for each heat advantage should an alternative system ever be required. Most people would agree that this actual heat scoring should be sacrosanct, but over the years a deal of tinkering has taken place. We've had double points being awarded, bonus points being included in the score and four points being awarded for a win.

As well as race points we also award bonus points in each 3-3 or 5-1 race. These points, the source of much terracing confusion over the years, don't actually exist in any meaningful context outwith riders pay packets and averages. Did anybody understand what these were in the first season they watched the sport?

Of course these bonus points are sometimes included in the all-important riders averages and sometimes they're not. These averages, however we've decided to calculate them each year, are used as a mechanism to ensure relatively equal team strengths throughout the leagues. These decimal numbers dictate which riders can be employed by each track, an all important decimal point forcing many riders to seek new employment or onto the dole queue. I've often wondered what happens when riders are interviewed by the personnel at the job centre about why they left their previous employment - "I scored too many points at Workington last September" just begging to be given as the response

Once we've calculated the averages we then deduct 2.5% from each Brit's average, giving us a straightforward calculation of:

((Points + Bonus Points) / Rides * 4) /100) * 97.5

Worryingly most fans will already have known that formula - do other sports expect their supporters to have such strong arithmetical abilities?

We also use points within each match itself to determine which moves a team manager can take. In 2009 if your team is 10 points behind then you can nominate a rider to receive double points for their efforts, if you're 12 points behind later in the match then you can use another one. Another case of 'numbers rule ok?'.

In the 2009 season it's been decided that Premier League riders with an average of less than eight points a match can 'double up' and also appear on a part-time basis for Elite League clubs. If this regulation persists in 2010, and that's a massive assumption given the way that the regulations change from season to season, then it will be interesting to see the implications of this come the end of the season. What incentive will there be for Premier League riders averaging somewhere between 8 and 8.5 towards the end of the season? If they ride well then they'll be excluded from the earning opportunities available in the Elite League the following year, however if they just drop the odd point here and there..

I'm always loathed to compare speedway with football, but in this case I feel it's unavoidable. Football, a game understood in virtually all corners of the world, is essentially simple. If team A scores more goals than team B then they win - regardless of when those goals are scored, or what the score was at the time. It's now pretty much three points for win and one for a draw. The only time you need to demonstrate mathematical dexterity is to keep track of a penalty shoot-out. Compare and contrast with speedway...

In speedway the actual races now seem to play the same role as the dice do in Monopoly - generating the numbers required to allow the real game to be played.

 

This article was first published on 4th December 2008


 

  • Bill Elliot:

    "Dave Green got it spot on with his article about speedway being a numbers game - how the Hell do you explain to a potential new sponsor/supporter how the points system works. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, the old way was very simple - if you scored more points than the other team, you won the match, picked up two points, and the losing team got nothing. If your team was six points down, you could replace riders with others until you were less than 6 points down - a wee bit more complicated, but still within the understanding of most people. Even the bonus point rule was fairly straightforward, score more points than your opponents over the 2 meetings you race against them home and away and you get a bonus point - a similar concept to many sports where aggregate wins progress the winning team to the next stage.

    Dave may have been kidding about employing Carol Voorderman to work out the scores, but he has a point, and as for league tables getting published next year, I think all newspapers and teletext services will have to go onto manuscript setting, to allow for all the permutations which allow a team to pick up any points from a meeting. If I go into teletext to see how the various basketball teams are doing, it's played so many, won/lost so many, and points gained. Dead simple.

    How these latest variations are supposed to encourage new interest is beyond me, and like Dave says, much of them will be quietly dropped before the 2010 season - unfortunately, by that time, the sport will probably have lost even more casual supporters and certainly dissuaded any new ones from coming. "

  • Anonymous:

    "Doesn't cricket in England also have at times complicated use of their scoring system? Bonus points for bowling and batting (equivalent to winning/losing by 7). A complicated formula for rain affected matches (speedway at least has a simple ht12 cut off) and even matches of different lengths. There may well be other examples of which this Scotsman is not aware of!!!"

  • Ian Harwood:

    "Every year the promotors seek out the magic formula that will bring spectators flooding back. Endless tinkering with the points, tactical rides and other such ...(sorry. nearly used a word not suitable for a family website) won't make a blind bit of difference. Try reducing costs and smartening up your venues."

  • Ian Hawkins:

    "Bonus point for a 4-2? Does not happen! - possibly means a 3-3 Obviously not just terracing confusion."

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