Well, I will be darned!
The following blog post is about sport, but not about fencing per se. Consider this your notice.
UEFA, the governing body for association football in Europe, has decided to implement a competition format in which the poules are filled with competitors of roughly equal strength, while the poules (or groups, in soccer-speak) are of greatly differing strengths. Not only that, there will be multiple rounds of poules, and competitors can be promoted and demoted after each round depending on their results. It is no little experimental tryout, either – the results of this competition will be used to allocate 4 (out of 24) spots to the UEFA championships.
UEFA describes how the competition, named UEFA Nations League, works here.
The 12 highest-ranked teams are in the A-league, which is split into 4 groups of 3 teams each. The first group looks like this:
Group A1: Germany, France, Netherlands
In contrast, the possibly weakest group in the D-league looks like this:
Group D4: FYR Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar
There is some serious hardware among those three teams in A1 – they have among themselves won 6 of the 15 UEFA championships to date, and a bunch of World Championships medals also.
One of the 16 teams in the D-league will get a spot in the UEFA championships, something that none of those teams have managed to do until now. FYR Macedonia, the highest ranked team in the D-league, has so far as its best achievement a 5th place in the qualification group for the 2008 UEFA championships.
It is worth pointing out that UEFA uses promotion and relegation to get the teams to their correct placement in the end, and does not anything similar to the Colley matrix. But, baby steps.
I could not have hoped for a bigger exposure of the concept of equal strengths within a poule and differing among them to the general sports-interested person. I hope, and believe, that this football event will pave the way for more understanding of the Colley-Gustafsson competition format. To that end, I will use the results from both the ordinary qualification group stages and the UEFA National nations league and produce a complete ranking list. This can then be compared to the official rankings, and one will hopefully see whether the Colley Matrix method or the official FIFA ranking method is better.