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Fixing match-fixing: Optimal schedules to promote competitiveness

Mario Chater (), Luc Arrondel, Jean-Pascal Gayant () and Jean-François Laslier
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Mario Chater: PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris Sciences et Lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement

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Abstract: In the last round of the FIFA World Cup group stage, games for which the outcome does not affect the selection of the qualified teams are played with little enthusiasm. Furthermore, a team that has already qualified may take into account other factors, such as the opponents it will face in the next stage of the competition so that, depending on the results in the other groups and the scheduling of the next stage, winning the game may not be in its best interest. Even more critically, there may be situations in which a simple draw will qualify both teams for the next stage of the competition. Any situation in which the two opposing teams do not play competitively is detrimental to the sport, and, above all, can lead to collusion and match-fixing opportunities. We here develop a relatively general method of evaluating competitiveness and apply it to the current format of the World Cup group stage. We then propose changes to the current format in order to increase the stakes in the last round of games of the group stage, making games more exciting to watch and, at the same time, reducing any collusion opportunities. We appeal to the same method to evaluate a "groups of 3" format which will be introduced in the 2026 World Cup edition as well as a format similar to the one of the current Euro UEFA Cup.

Keywords: Operations research in sports; Tournament structure; FIFA World Cup; Modeling match outcomes; Monte Carlo simulations (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-10
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Published in European Journal of Operational Research, 2021, 294 (2), pp.673-683. ⟨10.1016/j.ejor.2021.02.006⟩

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DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2021.02.006

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