Talking Rugby League: Is Super League too predictable?

WHAT makes a competition exciting?

It’s a fundamental question.

Most studies that have been done across all manner of sports suggest that uncertainty of outcome plays a key role in persuading people to come to a ground or tune in to a broadcast of a game.

So how do we measure whether Super League has the degree of uncertainty of outcome that will appeal to fans and encourage more people to support the twelve clubs that make up the competition?

One measure could be the degree to which teams can beat teams that finished above them in the league table last year.

So far, for example, after five rounds of Super League we have had 29 matches.

And of those games, only seven have seen a team beating another team that finished above it in last year’s table. That is just less than a quarter of all the games.

And of those seven victories against higher opposition, three of them have been registered by Leeds, who finished in eighth place last season and have so far beaten Catalans (second), Leigh (fifth) and Salford (seventh) in the league, while not losing to any side that finished below them.

Salford have registered two wins against teams that finished higher than them (St Helens and Hull KR), while Warrington have beaten one team that was higher (Hull KR) and Huddersfield have also beaten one team that finished higher than them (Leigh).

Apart from that, all the games have seen results in which the team that finished higher last season got the win.

If we contrast that with what has happened so far in the NRL, for example, we find that of the 24 matches played so far, eleven (just under half) were won by the team finishing lower in the league last season.

In fact, the first five matches in the NRL this season were all won by the side that had finished lower last season, which perhaps accounts for the degree of excitement down under that has led to big crowds and TV viewing figures.

Many competitions across the world, particularly the NFL, have equalising mechanisms that are aimed at ensuring that no one club can dominate their competition for a lengthy period.

We don’t have anything like that in Super League.

Perhaps it’s time to consider whether there is scope for us to start doing that.