AV is meant to change politics, not seats (Post previously titled: A new league system that benefits Liverpool FC)

Every now and then someone bemoans the defensive nature of certain football matches, the boredom experienced during 0-0 draws, and comes up with a suggestion to make football more entertaining, such as “Make the goals bigger” or “don’t reward teams that draw games”.

Football at the Emirates

Football at the Emirates

Seeing as we’ve heard so much about changing our electoral system, I thought I’d have look at a different league system – one where you “don’t reward draws”.

Before I go any further I’d like to state now that I don’t think we should change the way we calculate our football leagues. I think the system we’ve got is very good and has worked well over the years. This is very different to how I feel about the system we currently use to elect our MPs, “First Past the Post”, which is a disastrous mess, but we’ll come to that later.

So here is last season’s premierleague table, where 3 points is awarded for a win and 1 point for a draw.

1Chelsea (C)27567186
2Manchester United27475885
4Tottenham Hotspur217102670
5Manchester City181372867
6Aston Villa171381364
9Birmingham City131114-950
10Blackburn Rovers131114-1450
11Stoke City111413-1447
14Bolton Wanderers10919-2539
15Wolverhampton Wanderers91118-2438
16Wigan Athletic9920-4236
17West Ham United81119-1935
18Burnley (R)8624-4030
19Hull City (R)61220-4130
20Portsmouth (R)7724-3219


And now is how the table would have looked if we awarded 3 points for a win and 0 points for a draw.

1Chelsea (C)27567181
2Manchester United27475881
4Tottenham Hotspur217102663
5Manchester City181372854
6Aston Villa171381351
9Birmingham City131114?939
10Blackburn Rovers131114?1439
11Stoke City111413?1433
14Bolton Wanderers10919?2530
15Wolverhampton Wanderers91118?2427
16Wigan Athletic9920?4227
17West Ham United81119?1924
18Burnley (R)8624?4024
19Hull City (R)61220?4118
20Portsmouth (R)7724?3212


They look pretty similar, but there are some differences. The biggest difference is that Liverpool have poached Aston Villa’s UEFA League Play-off position, rather than getting entry into the third qualifying round. Aston Villa are the losers here and Liverpool the winners. “This system clearly benefits Liverpool FC”, Villa fans will say. “This is skewing the system in favour of Liverpool”.

Except they wouldn’t say that, and they don’t say that. Because it’s obvious to them that the league wouldn’t look like that at the end of the season.

Football Mural in Berlin

A great football mural in Berlin

The whole point of this new rule would be to encourage attacking football, not to just punish those who play defensive football. To make the game more attacking. The players and managers would know this new rule at the start of the first season it came into effect and would alter their tactics before a ball was kicked. We might see less draws, we might see more freak results as teams are forced to try and get a win where they normally would settle for a draw.

Aston Villa held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at home during this season. I’d say that’s quite a good result. Picking up a point by stopping Arsenal scoring is a worthwhile endeavour. Doing it for no points is a waste of everyone’s time. They would have gone for the win. You never know, they may have got it. And then they would be back in their rightful UEFA cup playoff spot.

I’m not trying to say that this system would work, but I’m trying to use it as an example of what a fruitless excercise it is to recaculate history based on different settings. The league may look different or it may not. The point is that the football would certainly look different.

And that’s why I find it so annoying when I hear people saying that the Alternative Vote will benefit the Liberal Democrats.

Like this bizarre bit of scaremongering by Diane Abbott:

“Under AV 22 more Lib Dem MPs at the last election. A good thing? You be the judge.”

Diane Abbott's Questionable Tweet

Diane Abbott's Questionable Tweet

This is totally ridiculous. It’s impossible to tell how many more or less Liberal Democrats there would have been at the last election, under AV. For a start, that’s not the point of AV.

AV is there to make our MPs reach out to more of us, to seek to win your support even if they know you will always give your first vote to another party.

Just as football managers would know to change their tactics under the new system, so would MPs! That’s the whole point of the new system. It’s not to benefit one football team or one political party. It’s to change the way the game is played.

AV doesn’t mean that MPs who are safe under FPTP will lose their seats under AV. They will be able to do what AV tries to make them do – attempt to win more votes.

Just as Villa might have approached Arsenal with more attacking abandon during that game*, an MP who relies on a minority of support would have to think about how to win votes from more people. Perhaps he wouldn’t go running to hide in a hairdressers when questioned about his MPs expenses, for example.

The point of AV isn’t so much to get rid of crap MPs who hide in hairdressers rather than answer difficult questions as it is to stop that kind of crap behaviour in the first place. In Southend there was widespread outrage about Amess’ behaviour, but the majority of people still couldn’t get rid of him. Under AV he would know he faced a threat from this outraged majority and would perhaps not hide in a hairdressers in the first place. You never know, he might not even have difficult questions to answer about his expenses in the first place. You can afford those kind of scandals when you’re an MP elected under FPTP. Not when elections are conducted under AV.

So we should stop guessing about which parties will do better or worse under the Alternative Vote. That’s missing the point by a yard. Under AV, elections will be determined by how we decide to cast our votes. The real winners at the end of the day will be the voters. It’s a funny old game. But it shouldn’t be. It doesn’t matter how the election will look on paper, once they get on the pitch we will see a different story. (*voms*)

*The match report from the Villa 0 – Arsenal 0 game tells us that it was actually quite an attacking game anyway. When people suggest dropping the “point for a draw”, I reckon it’s after they’ve watched games like this)

About dicky

Hi I'm Dicky. My style is silly. My politics are liberal, lefty, green. My musical adventures are DJing, remixing, songwriting and producing and that under the guise of BEARCRAFT. I've played guitar with Scritti Politti & Frank Sidebottom's Oh Blimey Big Band. I've just become a Dad.

16. April 2011 by dicky
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