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Goals, Constraints, and Public Assignment: A Field Study of the UEFA Champions League

Alistair Wilson

No 6534, Working Paper from Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh

Abstract: We analyze a dynamic matching mechanism developed for the UEFA Champions League, the largest and most-watched football club competition worldwide. First, we theoretically characterize the assignment rule developed by UEFA by solving a complex constrained assignment problem with a publicly verifiable draw. Then, using a structural model of the assignments and data from the UEFA Champions League 2004 and 2018 seasons we show that the constraints cause quantitatively large spillovers to unconstrained teams. Nevertheless, we conclude that the UEFA draw is close to a constrained-best in terms of fairness. Moreover, we find that it is feasible to substantially reduce the distortions by only marginally slacking the constraints.

Date: 2018-01
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