Review of Industrial Organization

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 43–69 | Cite as

Rivalry Effects and Unbalanced Schedule Optimisation in the Australian Football League

  • Stephan Lenor
  • Liam J. A. Lenten
  • Jordi McKenzie


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.


Demand for sport Scheduling optimisation Rivalry effects 

JEL Classification

C13 L83 Z28 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at: (1) Internal Workshop, School of Economics, La Trobe University (May, 2012); (2) BET Seminar, Department of Economics, Monash University (May, 2012); (3) Western Economic Association International, 87th Annual Conference, San Francisco (July, 2012); and (4) Seminar, School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University (October, 2012). Research assistance was provided by Blake Angell and Carmen Mezzadri. We are grateful for the comments of the Editor, Lawrence J. White, and two anonymous referees that have helped to improve this paper. We would also like to thank Jack Daniels for supplying betting data. All errors are our own.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephan Lenor
    • 1
  • Liam J. A. Lenten
    • 2
  • Jordi McKenzie
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Physics and AstronomyHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Department of Economics and FinanceLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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